Freshman trio fuels dominant Thompson Valley volleyball campaign – Loveland Reporter-Herald


When joining a high school volleyball team, incoming freshmen typically begin a gradual process of progression to college.

In most cases, freshmen have microscopic chances of making a significant contribution to a given team’s top level – let alone reaching college as a rookie.

But 2021 hasn’t been most cases for Thompson Valley. Once the previous campaign was over, coach Lester Thorne knew that a tidal wave of legitimate reinforcements was about to bravely crash into the Eagles’ shore.

“You better be careful. We’re coming,” Thorne said after last season’s final game in May. “These freshmen coming in are absolutely amazing. They’re just amazing. So even if we lose some seniors, we will be strong and ready to ride next year. ”

Thorne’s intuition about his future newcomers was manifested in light of the encouraging words on the street. Specifically, coaches at local colleges went out of their way to alert the second-year television line chief of the immediate ability that many of their eighth-year graduates no doubt possessed – which is certainly not happening very much. often.

Realizing the promise the near future seemed to hold, it proved impossible to erase the confident smile on Thorne’s face as the 2020 season drew to its final moments – even after the Eagles fell in the regional final. with travel to the in-game state.

Now that smile has only shone bright as the trio of Tatum Sharp, Avery Gibbs, and Ashlyn Tafoya continue to soar beyond the ordinary expectations of freshmen as cohesive sources of vital production.

“I never count my chickens until they hatch, especially before we play our first game,” Thorne said. “But I could tell they were going to be fantastic. And what they have done is truly impressive. It’s rare to have a freshman who can step in directly, handle the speed of the game, and understand the game at a level high enough to be a beginner from day one. These three are already strong college players. They are consistent at all levels.

LOVELAND, CO – SEPTEMBER 8, 2021: Thompson Valley volleyball player Tatum Sharp spikes the ball on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, during a practice in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

As Thorne mentioned, despite good reason to believe in the trio’s ability to achieve instant prosperity, the Eagles staff and returning contributors were not yet strong enough in the midst of pre-season build-up. .

While all three excelled during summer training while seamlessly securing varsity roster spots, the question arose of how the young athletes would handle the live action.

Well, only one contest answered that question as TV freshmen crushed previously tempered expectations against Loveland in the season opener on August 19.

“Watching them this summer we knew they were going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said senior Jordan Duzenack. “But we didn’t know how they were going to do in the games, especially with all the screaming and the pressure. I was telling them before our first game that they might get nervous and not play their best. But they came out and outperformed everyone on the team. They were telling me how nervous they were, but they didn’t seem like it at all. We didn’t worry about them at all after that.

The trio of freshmen set the bar very high when they managed to flourish as the Eagles claimed a straight-set victory over their nemesis in crosstown. And from there, everyone comfortably satisfied said bar game by game.

Sharp, a multi-faceted center-tackle, currently leads the TV roster for kills (68), aces on service (16) and blocks (36) until the No. 8-2 ranked Eagles start. 3. Bouncing between the outside and right strike positions, Gibbs’ 58 kills and 21 blocks rank third on the team.

Meanwhile, as an infallible passer, Tafoya totaled 93% of TV’s 287 collective assists simultaneously at 59 digs (second on team), 24 blocks (second) and 13 aces (third).

“The experience and the excellent training have helped me a lot,” said Sharp. “And it helped to have Ashlyn and Avery for support. We do small first year groups before games and we prepare mentally and physically. We are in it together.

“It helps a lot to have (Sharp and Gibbs) because they’re in exactly the same situation as me,” Tafoya added. “So I don’t live on my own. And overall, the team has been so supportive. “

LOVELAND, CO – SEPTEMBER 8, 2021: Thompson Valley volleyball player Ashlyn Tafoya kicks the ball on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, during a practice in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

As Sharp and Gibbs have pointed out, freshman-to-freshman support influenced the successful transitions for each component. After all, adjusting to the level of preparation can surely prove daunting in the absence of other freshmen to turn to.

It’s also worth noting that the trio’s past experience alongside others on the pitch has enabled wealth. Specifically, the three played for the same club team for several seasons before high school, while also sharing a common basketball experience.

“The three of us played sports together for a while,” said Sharp. “So we know how we are on the ground and can feed ourselves more easily. We just know how each of us is playing there, and that has helped a lot. “

Perhaps previous years of club and college volleyball also taught freshmen how to approach the mesh issue with returning TV veterans. Or maybe Sharp, Gibbs, and Tafoya just have a unique maturity.

Either way, rather than acting timidly throughout their first few campaigns, the freshmen found a way to fit in without any struggles.

“They’re not nervous or scared of seniors like you often see with freshmen,” Duzenack said. “They befriended everyone right away. They were open and outgoing immediately, which is weird because I wasn’t even like that in my first year. It helped build the chemistry with the whole team on the pitch. “

Coupled with the Eagles’ plethora of returning assets – – such as 2020-21 top kill producers in the Duzenack Sisters and top tackle Paige Phelps – – the freshmen have helped provide solid tournament hopes. of State for Thorne’s team.

In light of the loss of just three heavily involved seniors in the 10-4 group last year, television seemed poised to maintain prosperity no matter if freshmen got into the mix.

However, the emergence of Sharp, Gibbs and Tafoya has turned the Eagles into a truly leading force in the 4A field. In other words, they provided the icing on the cake.

“We didn’t miss a whole bunch last year,” Thorne said. “We had leadership and talent on the ground. But (freshmen) really solidified our list. We’re so far from the bench now and have a whole bunch of weapons we can throw at you anytime. I mean, we have 13 girls who can walk the floor and do the job. At our best, I think we’re a state champion team.

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