Just because they’re number one doesn’t mean they can’t have fun, too.
The lighthearted members of the Mountain View High School boys volleyball team have no trouble doing both, sitting atop the Division 5A rankings under third-year coach Lindsey Spivey.
The Lions road to volleyball fruition has been long and winding, with Spivey transforming the team from a six-win afterthought the season before her arrival to a 20-5 juggernaut.
She’s been able to do so by mixing in a workman-like dedication to instilling the fundamentals of the sport with a healthy dose of creativity and fun.
Spivey has done all of this while preparing to give birth to the newest member of the family, nearing the eight-and-a-half-month mark of her pregnancy.
She’s thrilled to coach the top-ranked team in a 53-team division, and seeing how dedicated her players are to the sport.
“We talk about our purpose every day, and that’s to be better, that’s to go as far as we can, and to be the best we can be,” Spivey said. “But I love that they can have fun, too, and I’m too pregnant to worry about it too much.”
Spivey’s players love her style of coaching. Senior setter Tanner Myers summed up the team’s modus operandi entering next month’s state playoffs.
“We always try to challenge ourselves and try to go up another division,” Myers said. “We just want to keep playing, get better. We’re just trying to show everyone at Tucson that we’re really here to play and that we’re not just ranked number one to be ranked number one. We’re here to win.”
The Lions have become must-see entertainment when they toe the hardwood, with a series of coordinated dance and celebratory routines.
They also move in lockstep, with deft precision and overpowering might along the front line—smashing their way past its competition.
The ability to toe the fine line between having fun and playing loose, versus losing focus and playing sloppy, is constantly on Spivey’s mind.
She knows when to call timeouts to refocus her players and when to let them roll with the punches.
“Sometimes that can be our downfall, but foremost, I want volleyball to still be fun,” she said.
“I want them to play the game because they started playing when they were 10, because it was a fun time. I love that they can still have fun and maintain their focus, for the most part.”
The Lions had plenty of fun in last Friday’s straight sets win over Division 6A power Rincon/University, taking the match, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21.
It was a team-wide effort that led the Lions to victory over the Rangers, with Myers collecting a team-best 10 kills, while teammate Elijah Elmer had 28 attacks on the front line.
For Elmer, Friday’s win is further proof that the team has what it takes to compete against anyone in the state, no matter what division they’re from.
“We always try to challenge ourselves and try to go up another division,” Elmer said. “We just want to keep playing and get better. We’re just trying to show everyone at Tucson that we’re really here to play and that we’re not just ranked number one to be ranked number one. We’re here to win.”
Myers believes the team’s happy-go-lucky approach to their matches is a key to their killer instinct on the court.
He knows how tough they are to beat when they’re playing well, with unmatched height and athleticism.
He also knows that the team’s best days are ahead of them and that they’ll have to keep their wits if they’re going to bring home the school’s first boys volleyball state championship.
“Positivity is key in this sport as long as you don’t let something go to your brain,” he said. “It’s easy to get in your own head if you hit a ball too bad or if you hit it out of bounds.”
Myers hopes they’ll be able to keep the fun alive for a while longer, possibly delivering two gifts of joy to their head coach.
“I think as a team, when we just mess around and we have some fun, it just makes everyone so much more lethal because we want to keep laughing and enjoying it,” Myers said. “You can’t enjoy it if you’re losing.”