Sophomore setter Samantha Steed kept seeing the gap on the bench between her and coach Meliame Teumohenga shrink as player after player went down with injury for the Olympus volleyball team this season.
Steed, who played significantly for her freshman team in Eagle, Idaho, a year ago, figured she might see some mop-up action in varsity, But when her name was called in a mid-September match, she took the floor for her first varsity action despite her rubbery legs telling her it was a bad idea.
"The first few games were a little scary," Steed said.
Not as scary as walking into the first day of tryouts at a new school and seeing just two other sophomores in attendance. After tryouts that day, assistant coach Colleen Norris called the trio over and told them, "I don't care where you find them, I don't care if they've ever played before, but bring me bodies," she said.
The sophomore squad grew, but dislocated kneecaps, sprained ankles and even a concussion during a moment of celebration diminished the number of available players.
"The injuries were crazy this year, and not winning much made this a hard season," senior co-captain McKenna Tholen said.
All the while Steed and fellow sophomores Sadie Sloan, Samantha Soltis and Maggie Wilkinson kept getting more playing time on sophomore, junior varsity and even some varsity.
Those bonds formed while playing together ultimately may prove to be the key to returning the Titans among the Region 7 elite.
"I think the biggest thing is these girls have gotten the fear factor out of the way," Teumohenga said. "They're good friends, they hang out together and they're developing chemistry."
When senior setter Kelsey Lund went down with a badly sprained ankle in region play, Teumohenga turned to Steed.
"When you lose your setter, everything breaks down," Teumohenga said. "Samantha's done a good job of coming up, and the experience of returning harder-hit balls and setting these varsity hitters will only help."
And the struggles of this season may translate to wins down the road.
"I think we have the potential to be pretty good, but there is a lot of work ahead of us," Steed said.
It's been a challenging year for the Olympus volleyball team, including first-year coach Meliame Teumohenga. The former All-American from West High School took over a program that suffered heavy graduation losses only to be besieged by injuries to upperclassmen.
Olympus sophomore Samantha Steed leads a promising group of Olympus sophomores who say their extra time on the court significantly improved their skills.
Teumohenga said the biggest key to the Olympus program is getting everyone on a club team so they are learning fundamentals and seeing hard-hit balls and tough competition. "It's the only way to get better," Teumohenga said.