If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Special to Big Country Preps
The Benjamin volleyball team’s theme this season is “Believe in We.”
It’s a three-word motto the Lady Mustangs have taken to heart during a successful 2021 campaign despite depending on a heavy dose of underclassmen.
That belief in each other has forged a dynamic team chemistry that is one of the reasons Benjamin is ranked No. 18 in the state at the 2A/1A level.
“Whether we win or lose, we always have each other’s backs and are the first to be there for each other,” senior Kinsey Kuehler said. “That’s why our team chemistry is so great. Because of that motto and how seriously we take it and apply it into not only on the court, but in our everyday lives.”
Kuehler, a multi-sport standout and the team’s setter, is one of two seniors who start for the Lady Mustangs along with libero Maggie Kuehne. Add reserve senior middle blocker Teresa Doran, and the rest of the squad is either a sophomore or freshman.
While Benjamin coach Cody Propps said he’s never afraid of playing a difficult opponent, he softened the 2021 slate a bit just because of the Mustangs’ youth. But Benjamin has surprised him from the start, compiling a 28-6 record heading into Tuesday’s matchup against Crowell.
“I didn’t pack the schedule as tough as it’s been, and now I’m kind of regretting it,” Propps said. “We hosted tournament our here and ended up winning it. We went to the Bronte Showdown and beat Water Valley, played for third. We went to the Childress Tournament and got third. We’re closing in on 30 wins and that’s a feat I’ve never had with a team.”
One underclassman most opponents will recognize is 5-foot-10 sophomore lefty Valeria Zavala. With the Lady Mustangs losing a senior class full of hitters, Zavala has stepped up to lead the front row, even though Propps said Zavala is a “humble kid who doesn’t want it to be about her.”
Both freshmen Electra Estrada and Eryn Cottingham also play on the front row, while sophomore Hallie Everson has filled a role as a middle blocker and sophomore Celestte Doran is the team’s most dependable server.
“It has been crazy to watch these young girls play with us, I never would have been able to do it my freshman year myself,” Kuehne said. “They get nervous which is understandable for their age, but they have the talent and shouldn’t be.”
This is Propps’ seventh year leading the Lady Mustangs, and each of those previous seasons have ended with a playoff berth. In district, Benjamin’s only loss was to No. 15 Northside, but the Lady Mustangs avenged that setback last week.
“We’ve had to work a lot more defensively that we’ve had to, and our serving game is a lot better,” Propps said. “Our chemistry is amazing. I can change things on the floor, and it doesn’t faze them. That’s what I like to see.”
Propps would also like to see the Lady Mustangs make the regional tournament, although they’re taking it one match at a time. Benjamin has been close the past two years, as Veribest and Bronte have knocked them out in the regional quarterfinals.
However the 2021 season plays out, everyone can agree Benjamin has been a pleasant surprise.
“With losing four seniors not many people expected us to be as good with so many young players, but we’ve really stepped up and shown them that we are still the team we have been in the past,” Kuehler said. “Our goals the rest of the season are to just keep growing and finding who we are as a team and chase gold balls.”