BURLINGTON — Before each practice and match, players on the Burlington-Edison volleyball team line up along the end line, close their eyes and think about what they want to accomplish.
Then, one by one, they leap forward.
“It helps us think about what we want to do,” Tigers setter Amey Rainaud said.
It’s a small ritual that only takes a few seconds, but the Tigers say small changes like that one have led them to a momentum-powered run to the Class 2A State Tournament, which begins Friday at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
The coaches have noticed the difference.
The players have noticed the difference.
Even strangers have have noticed the difference, with several approaching coach Tawnya Brewer to tell her how much they’ve enjoyed watching this year’s Tigers squad play.
The players say there’s been no dramatic change that’s led to a more confident team this year, but they can tell the difference is there all the same.
That difference revealed itself most dramatically in a five-set win over Lynden in the bi-district title game.
“Last year’s team wouldn’t have been able to come back like that,” Tigers senior Katie King said.
King said she has enjoyed previous seasons with the Tigers, but this year’s squad shows more confidence and trust in each other.
“I know if I call for a quicker set and rush there, Amey (Rainaud) will get the ball there each time,” she said. “I know if Dylan (Isaacson) is behind me for a dig, I don’t have to reach up for the ball.”
Isaacson, who won a title with the Tigers in her sophomore year, said she’s confident heading into the state tournament.
“There’s a feeling I get. In my sophomore year I had it,” she said.
The Tigers say an accumulation of small choices have helped bring the season together. For example, this year’s squad doesn’t have captains. Instead, each player has an assigned role that gives her a chance to channel her skills ... both on the court and off.
“We’re all contributing,” Tiger Bronte Lacey said. “We all feel important to the team, and we’re all contributing to the team.”
Brewer said she focused specifically on tweaks like that as the Tigers headed into the 2019 campaign.
She had the Tigers all read and respond to the same book; she got rid of the captain positions.
The players did their part, too, she said, despite having new roles and new expectations.
“They’re willing to get out of their comfort zone more, they’re willing to be students of the game, they’re willing to face their fears,” she said.
One of those fears, she said, was the tough challenge that Lynden always seems to pose. After a loss to the Lions early in the season, the Tigers bounced back in the bi-district championship.
It was the Tigers’ first five-set match of the year, and they came out on top.
Lauryn Dykstra said the win gave the team the boost it needed as the Tigers start play in a talent-packed Class 2A state tournament.
“If we hadn’t won that, we wouldn’t be as confident,” she said.