Mullen volleyball heads to the state tournament

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP)- The Mullen Broncos volleyball team has advanced to the state championship tournament for the seventh time in eleven seasons under head coach Belinda Coble.

The Broncos will face the Chambers/Wheeler Central Renegades in the first round on Thursday Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Southwest High School.

At the beginning of the season, Coble and the team believed they had a chance at a successful season.

"I knew we had the potential to be successful, we really were only filling one position. I really knew this summer it was going to be a good group of girls, and if we did what we needed to do we'd be successful," Coble said.

"Same team as last year, just a better mindset. So we knew we needed to take our young talent, put it together, and stay positive," said Madison Jones, a junior libero.

The seniors on the team know it is their responsibility to mentor their younger teammates, and to lead the team.

"I have to give it my all, because it potentially could've been my last games. I needed to step up, be a leader, and show underclassmen what you need to do coming into the last games," said Alysen Daniels, a senior outside hitter.

"I like to give pointers every now and then. But, you have to make sure it's how you say not what you say. We like to stay positive and build the team up instead of tearing it down," Daniels added.

Haley Jones, a senior setter on the team, said, "To help my team, I think it's a matter of just simple reminders, like, hey we need to be positive with each other, hey let's get after every ball. Never give up, make sure we're keeping grades up, make sure everyone has everything, and just being an all around team player."

Throughout the season, Coble told the team not to get ahead of themselves and expect to win, even against teams they had faced and beaten before.

"I told them just to take one game at a time and not overlook anybody. Just going into sub-districts we knew we had to play Anselmo-Merna for like the fourth time. We knew they would play us tough, they've improved all year. We knew we just had to take it one game at a time, and one ball at a time," Coble said.

The season-long mindset has continued into state as well. Although the Broncos are the third-seed, they are not taking their games for granted.

"It's the first time we've gone, and we haven't been the seventh or eighth seed, hopefully it's a good sign that we're not going in and playing the number one or two ranked team right off the get go. Hopefully it'll give us the chance to get our feet underneath us and get something done," Coble said.

The players feel they are ready for the challenge of state, and are optimistic about their chances to go on and win the championship.

"Our outlook going into state is now or never. This is our time to shine and we need to work together and do what we know we can do," Madison Jones said.

"You've gotta stay positive. It's a big crowd, big gym, people are going to be loud, it's what state's all about," Daniels said.

"Playoffs have really sparked another player inside of me. I think this could potentially be my last game, and every game is like that. But, playoffs is definitely just a different kind of game for everybody," Haley Jones said, adding, "This is probably one of the first years we haven't been one of the lower seeds, so we have a good chance at winning this game. It would be the first time we won a first round, so that could spark some sense into our school, and into women's athletics at Mullen."

Diane Kasselder, the head coach for CWC, shares a similar outlook on the game as Coble and the Broncos.

"We try to be controlled and mentally tough. It's important to absorb the atmosphere when you have your adrenaline pumping. We've talked about it the whole season: trust your training. Adapt to what's happening," Kasselder said.

Kasselder also talked about the offensive prowess of the Broncos, saying, "They block really well, we have to be consistent, because they set well and have a good offensive attack."