Nearing the halfway point of the high school volleyball season, the Caesar Rodney Riders are off to an encouraging start, winning their first seven games, three wins shy of last year’s win total already.

CR has shown what they’re capable of early on, proving they are a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.

The volleyball season is a long grind, but so far Caesar Rodney head coach Zach Taylor has been impressed.

“I’ve been most impressed by our team’s resiliency and leadership,” Taylor said. “We’ve had some very close matches and some tough practices, but the team has found ways to come together and push through those challenges.”

Most talented teams have one thing in common, selfless leaders who hold the team together. In CR’s case, they have several who’ve taken the job head-on.

“I think our two captains, Chloe Mangubat and Jessica Crawford, have done a terrific job of leading the team,” Taylor said. “They’ve found the right balance of pushing their teammates to improve, while also being positive and supportive when they need to be. I’m lucky to have them both.”

Another mark of a good team is how they react to pressure. Caesar Rodney has swept Concord, Sussex Central, Sanford and Sussex Tech, but they’ve also been in some tight contests where they had to dig deep to come away with victories.

CR earned a 3-1 win over Lake Forest while posting 3-2 wins over Indian River and Appoquinimink.

“The fact that we’ve won close matches is probably our biggest improvement from last season,”Taylor said. “We spend a lot of time talking about mental toughness. It’s rewarding to see that this group has bought into that message and has found ways to win even when they aren’tplaying their best.

“Winning those close matches has given us even more confidence and the motivation to continue to work hard to improve each day.”

The Riders will be challenged by matchups against Dover, Delmar, Smyrna, Polytech, Cape Henlopen and Milford ahead.

With how the season has started, Taylor believes things should continue to trend upward.

“I expect us to be a better team at the end of the season than we are today,” Taylor said. “Each player has the responsibility to identify the skills they need to improve upon to help our team. If the team continues to have that growth mindset then there is no reason why they cannot compete with the best teams in the state.

“We want to be a volleyball program that is respected across the state, and the only way to do that is to earn it through continued success.”

The Lady Riders will host rival Dover Thursday at 5:15 p.m.