By Cole Deutschendorf / Staff Writer
Two thousand three hundred twenty-four. That’s 2,324
This number probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but it does mean something for the Hutchinson Community College volleyball team. That is the approximate number of miles the Blue Dragons traveled from Sept. 1 through Sept. 24. During this 24-days streak, they have not had more than one day between matches. Despite being driven ragged, the team remains with a winning percentage over .500, currently sitting at 12-9.
With almost no time to rest between matches, the season has been a grueling one thus far.
“It definitely has affected us, both mentally and physically,” Blue Dragons coach Delice Downing said. Anyone who has played a sport knows playing a large amount in a short period of time can take its toll on the body and the mind, but the Blue Dragons have been up to the challenge so far.
Even with their limited off time, the Blue Dragon practices have remained competitive and energetic. “Sometimes, we practice harder than we play,” Downing said. “They compete against each other just as hard as their opponents. We want to carry that over to our matches, stay that competitive, stay that hungry.”
This streak of matches has had multiple highlights, including taking tight 3-2 wins over both Cloud County and Neosho, and a three-match win streak in which they won nine consecutive sets over Laramie County, Garden City and Pratt.
The Blue Dragons are seeking to make it back to the NJCAA Championships after a drought of three years. Downing said that the September schedule would be good practice, if the team was to make it to nationals, as they would not have any days off between matches.
“For me, personally, I know that it’s going to make me a stronger person, so I look at it more as a good thing instead of a bad thing,” sophomore captain Kristina Head said.
Both Head and Downing agree that the mental aspect of the schedule has arguably been more challenging than the physical aspect of it, as remaining focused during play can become harder as the season progresses.
While Head said she has thoroughly enjoyed the time she’s been able to spend on and off the court with her teammates, she also has relished the little amount of off time she has had.
“A lot of times, if I have a weekend off, I’ll spend some time with my family or friends,” Head said.
Over anything else, Downing said she has been happy to see the progress of the team as they become a tighter group.
“I feel that they’ve grown as a family,” she said. “They’re going up against their opponents as a unit.” Teamwork is arguably the most important aspect of volleyball, and being able to remain cohesive throughout the toughest stretch of the season has made the bond between the team stronger than ever. Downing and the rest of the team look forward to the challenge of finishing off the season strong.