Making history by reaching the semifinals of the state tournament this year, the CR volleyball team has established itself as a contending program, it hopes, for years to come.
To some, the Caesar Rodney High School girls volleyball team’s goals coming into the season might have been modest.
Some teams enter the season thinking they should finish above .500. Others say that it is either championship or bust. For the No. 5 Riders, the goal was simple, and that was to make it to the second round of the tournament.
For a perennial playoff team that goal might seem like CR was setting its sights low, but making it past the first match in the tournament is something that’s troubled the team in its history.
This year’s Riders, however, were different. Not only did they make it past the opening round, they advanced all the way into the semifinals and were one of the state’s final four teams in the postseason, losing to No. 1 Ursuline Academy, 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-15), Nov. 15 to end their season.
While the season-ending loss was tough to take, the members of this year’s team still were able to appreciate the history they made and the reputation they established, Head Coach Tiffany Ranger said.
By competing with the upstate competition, Ranger said, the CR girls proved that Henlopen teams belong on the tournament too.
“I think it puts CR on the map,” she said. “Hopefully the upstate teams will look at us now and say, ‘Hey, we want them on our schedule.’”
Senior setter Kaitlin Fox, who graduates off the team this year, added that she hopes this year’s Riders left a mark for downstate teams for years to come.
“I hope that we’ve made a point that downstate volleyball is coming around,” she said.
Since 1975, only six different schools have laid claim to the girls volleyball title. And in the past 17 years, it’s either been Ursuline or St. Mark’s High School that’s hoisted the state trophy. St. Mark’s hoisted the trophy this year after beating Ursuline 3-2 in Wednesday’s final.
With its surge into the final four this year, the Riders are hoping they’ve taken a step toward carving its name into that list of state championship winners.
Seven members of this year’s team will be graduating, but junior Layla Shanehsaz said she thinks the impression of this season will last even though those players will be moving on.
The returning girls, Shanehsaz said, will pass on what happened this year and increase that drive to get back to where this team was and beyond.
“We’ll be able to describe the situation and have something to work toward next year,” she said.
Ranger said she’s already seeing the makings of that future success fall into place, as her JV players have already expressed interest in playing club ball upstate so they can face the tough competition CR is trying to get past in each postseason.
This year’s team did have one more shot on the court, losing to No. 6 Wilmington Friends School, 2-0 (25-17, 25-11), Nov. 17, in the consolation game at the Bob Carpenter Center, Newark.
With a fourth place finish, only the memory of these Riders will live on, as no banner will be hung to commemorate their historic season.
Ranger, however, said the impression of this team should last on for years and she’ll do whatever she can to make sure they’re remembered.
“I told them that I’ll make my own banner and I’ll run it around the school for them, because I’m so proud of them,” she said. “They’ve done a tremendous job this season so they can’t be disappointed in any way.”
Email Brian Citino at email@example.com