As the final points slipped away during the fifth set of their season finale, a 2-point loss to Concordia Prep that kept Intermountain Christian from a berth in the state volleyball tournament, four juniors promised then and there that 2012 would be different.
Emily Horak, Nichole Brown, Jen Eyre and Kim Miller were all on the court for that crushing defeat and say that loss keeps them motivated through a long fall camp.
"That moment when we looked up and realized our season was over was very tough," said Horak. "We're going into this year motivated, and we expect to improve."
First-year coach Annie Viola, who has been with the program as an assistant, said it's unusual for a school of about 60 students to have four senior girls out for volleyball. She also noted the experience of a group that has played together for so long is invaluable.
"Kim Miller is in her second year as our starting setter, and her experience at that position is big," said Viola. "All of the seniors play different positions, so we'll be able to have them on the court together at all times.
One of the first things Viola did upon taking the reins at Intermountain Christian was to upgrade the offense. No longer content just to get the ball over, this Lions team is looking to mix up the hitting attack.
"It was a little challenging to pick up at first, but I think the changes make us unpredictable and harder to defend," said hitter Nichole Brown.
Brown joined her fellow seniors as a transfer from Grace Lutheran during her ninth-grade year. She said having experience will be key in tight matches.
"We've been playing together for a while and when games get tight, we'll remember to do the little things that come up big in pressure situations."
Viola feels that her team could be right in the mix for a Region 17 title, along with St. Joseph's and Layton Christian.
"My goal is to play our best volleyball on our side of the court," she said. "I've got high expectations for these girls, and I expect them to rise to the occasion."
Lions hope to claw 1A competition
After falling 2 points short of a state tournament berth in 2011, the Intermountain Christian volleyball team returns four seniors who are intent on making the 1A state tourney.
At 5 feet 4 inches, middle blocker Emily Horak has a vertical leap of over 24 inche, and is a big part of the Lions' defensive scheme.
Emily Horak, Jen Eyre and Kim Miller have played volleyball together since third grade. Fellow senior Nichole Brown joined the group when she transferred during her freshman season.