“Leavenworth volleyball made incredible progress in terms of skill, execution and volleyball IQ,” head coach Cassie Rockers said when asked to describe the 2018 season for Leavenworth volleyball in one sentence.

The Pioneers finished their season on Oct. 20 in a close sub-state loss to Blue Valley Northwest to finish the season 11-21. The Pioneers fell 25-23 in both games. Rockers said that she pushed the team to play with confidence for the entire set going into the final game.

“Going into the match, I just wanted the girls to play with confidence and compete,” Rockers said. “We did just that. We ended our season playing the most efficient we’ve played all season and didn’t stop fighting or lose confidence in ourselves.”

Prior to the sub-state match, Rockers and junior co-team captain Ayden Bartlett said the team’s chemistry and communication were big reasons for the Pioneers to have their moments of success during the season. Rockers also said that the cohesiveness of the team is something she will remember the most. 

“This year's team has been the most cohesive group of girls I’ve coached,” she said. “Our team chemistry this year was undeniable, which was one of the main reasons we saw as much growth as we did. They all bought into the process and put in the work.”

Rockers was asked if she would change anything if she was able to go back. 

“No,” she said. “Overall, I think we made tremendous progress and we had the best team chemistry I’ve seen since coaching at Leavenworth.”

Rockers said there wasn’t a single MVP of the year, but Bartlett was the team’s offensive player of the year and the other team captain, senior Jessie Sachen, was the defensive player of the year for the team. 

The two also received postseason honors from the United Kansas Conference. Bartlett was the UKC player of the year and on the first team. She was also named an honorable mention to the Kansas Volleyball Association All-State team for 6A. Sachen was on second team for the UKC and Aleshia Jones was a UKC honorable mention. 

She also said Saniyah Hammonds was the team’s most improved. 

“Without a doubt, our most improved player is Saniyah Hammonds,” Rockers said. “Not only did she improve her volleyball skills, she improved her attitude, coachability, and work ethic. Saniyah started the season with the JV team. She quickly earned a spot on varsity with her raw athletic ability and desire to improve. She has been extremely versatile for us this year. She started out playing right side, then transitioned to the middle where she ended the season. Saniyah proved to be one of our leading blockers and most aggressive servers this season.”

The Pioneers will lose five seniors to graduation. Prior to sub-state, the co-captains said the seniors are leaving behind a legacy. 

“I feel like the seniors that are here created a legacy,” Sachen said. “We are so young as it is as a team. Losing five seniors is a big deal, but there is a lot to come in the future.” 

Bartlett agreed with Sachen. 

“I think they definitely created a legacy,” Bartlett said. “The hard work, passion and drive for our program, the seniors have contributed hugely to our program throughout their career at the high school so it will be an upward march from here.”

Rockers also said that the seniors will be missed, but she also mentioned how young the Pioneers were this season and how a lot of young players got experience. After the sub-state loss, she said she cannot wait to see next year’s team and guaranteed the team will be in the mix with the top 5A and 6A schools. Rockers said an early goal for next year is to pick up where the team left off.

“Next year I hope to pick up where we left off,” Rockers said. “We’re losing five seniors that we will miss, but we have some freshmen and sophomores that are playing club this winter and I know they’re going to step up to fill their shoes.”