Story and photos by Max Goodwin
Each Friday, the Notre Dame de Sion High School volleyball team meets at 6 a.m. and runs a mile on the track in the dark, “not because it’s fun, but because it builds that character. It builds that grit to wake up after we play, after a long week to get up and get out there,” head coach Brittany Boerigter said.
It’s hard work building a program back towards success.
The goal of the early morning workout is to instill Sion players to push through, and be able to overcome adversity. Sion has shown that resiliency lately by overcoming two separate three-match losing streaks earlier in the season.
Sion was three games under .500 with a 4-7 record. The team has revived itself, going on a five-match winning streak and has now won six of its last seven matches.
“Staying mentally focused in the game is going to be the biggest key for us,” Boerigter said. “We have great athletes, we know we’re in shape, we know we have that tenacity.”
Last season, the Sion Storm won its district for the first time since 2005. It was Boerigter’s first season as varsity head coach. This year, Sion can finish above a .500 winning percentage for the first time in five years, with a current record of 10-8 and five matches left to play.
“It was my first year, starting during the middle of a pandemic as a varsity coach and trying to build a program. It was a lot of fun to get that win,” Boerigter said about Sion winning its district for the first time in a decade and a half.
Boerigter played volleyball at Avila University from 2004 to 2008 and founded the Legacy Jrs, a youth club volleyball team in south Kansas City. Boerigter was the junior varsity coach at Sion before moving into the varsity role in June of 2020.
This year, the Sion Storm have built off that success and have plans to go further.
“Our final goal is to be state champions,” senior Bridgette Conner said. “I think we’re on our way. We’re doing so much better than last year, our record has improved a lot. We feel like more of a team this year. I definitely think it’s a reachable goal to win state.”
During those early-season losing streaks, Sion played against larger schools. The first three losses of the season were to Shawnee Mission East, Blue Valley North, and St. Teresa’s.
Sion is not in a conference like most schools, which means there’s more schedule building for Boerigter than for most coaches. It’s all part of the learning process as a new high school coach.
The mental focus to overcome adversity was needed to halt the losing skid felt early on and push in a new direction. After three losses, Sion started the fourth match of a tournament down 20-9 to Jefferson City. Boerigter called a timeout.
“I had a nice little chat with them about how they were much better athletes than what they were putting forth on the court,” Boerigter said. “They turned it around and got the energy and ended up winning that set 26-24.”
Sion rode the momentum of that moment, won that match and the next four. It’s now six of the last seven matches as the Storm added another win against St. Michael’s the Archangel High School on Senior Night.
The leadership of the four seniors has been crucial as they’ve turned winning into a habit lately.
Five matches remain and Sion currently has its best record in years. Some big schools with good teams loom on the Sion schedule with Olathe South, Heritage Christian Academy, and Lawrence Free State coming up.
“I think it will be great for our confidence going into districts and the state tournament to know that we’ve been here before, we’ve played these big schools and we can get the job done,” Boerigter said.
Update: Since this story appeared in the Martin City Telegraph October 13, Sion won its district on October 25, and is now scheduled to play Cameron High School on October 28 in the state playoffs.