SEDRO-WOOLLEY — The last time a Sedro-Woolley volleyball team played in a state tournament, “Rain Man” and “Die Hard” were in theaters, Transformers were the go-to toy and a gallon of gas was 91 cents.
That was 1988.
The school’s 30-year state tournament dry spell ended this season when the Cubs qualified for state by placing fourth in the 12-team Bi-District 2A Tournament.
“This is history in the making,” Sedro-Woolley coach Chris Tesarik said. “It’s crazy. The team, the parents, the community. We have received so much support. Everyone has gotten behind us. This week is going to be a lot of fun for a very special team.”
Jillian Nelson, Erin Hudson, Hannah Jutte, Kylie Thornton and Maren Mihelich are the five seniors on the team’s roster.
“This is so exciting,” Nelson said. “I can’t even begin to describe the feeling. It’s really surreal. It’s been so much fun.”
Added Hudson, “It’s really amazing. We can see the benefits of all the hard work. I’ve never been so proud of a team.”
It took Tesarik six years to get Sedro-Woolley to this point.
His team is 9-10 this season after going 2-13 in 2017.
It’s been quite the journey for the Cubs.
“My first season, we we won two matches. The second, we were 0-12. It was tough,” said Tesarik. “But we never gave up. I knew we’d get there eventually, we just had to change the culture and the mindset of the program and the girls.”
In order to do that, Tesarik had to get players immersed in his system at an early age.
It meant putting together a club system where players not only had the opportunity to play volleyball throughout the year, but become familiar with Tesarik’s style of play.
That was a huge step in the process. In fact, Tesarik said it is the biggest thing that led to where the team is now.
His first year, he asked how many girls were involved with a club volleyball team.
“I had two hands go up,” he said. “That was it, two. We got more and more involved over the years. This season, it was all but two. Now we have five club teams playing out of Sedro-Woolley, ranging from under-12 to under-17. We have gone from two girls to 60. It’s amazing.
“Now we have girls that are 9, 10, 11 years old who see volleyball as a fun sport. They see it as a positive, uplifting experience. Once they get to high school, they know all about it. It’s awesome.”
There are seniors on this team that Tesarik has been coaching since they were in the fifth grade.
Nelson is one of those players.
“I’ve been playing for Chris for a long time,” she said. “He’s been my coach. He’s always had expectations that this program could be something. Now here we are. It feels so good to be able to say we are Sedro-Woolley volleyball.”
Tesarik said there have been times where he hasn’t had to say a thing during timeouts. His seniors knowing exactly why he called the timeout.
“It’s definitely a core group that has stepped it up,” Tesarik said. “They have been so instrumental in getting us to this point. They deserve a ton of credit. That group has shown so much camaraderie, so much want. They have been amazing to work with.”
Tesarik has stressed the term sisterhood to his squad, referring to it as a core covenant of the program. The team has taken it to heart.
“Sisterhood, it’s from the top down,” Tesarik said. “It encompasses everyone involved with the team. To compete, but more than that, to be a good teammate. To work hard every day, but more than that, to support each other win or lose. To be positive and to grow as a person and a player.”
Losing can become ingrained in a program. Tesarik said changing that has been difficult.
He said it was a challenge to get the girls to continue to battle for every point, no matter how lost the cause seemed to be.
Now the players have taken it to the next level. They have reached their goal and are setting new ones.
“Now we want to win at state,” Tesarik said. “Sedro-Woolley volleyball is now relevant. Teams have to scout us now and it’s not easy to find film on us. They used to take us for granted. ‘Oh, it’s Woolley over there, that’s a win.’ That’s not the case anymore.”