Nearing gold for their last ride

Volleyball seniors prepare for state championship


Four of the seniors on this year’s varsity volleyball team were on the roster their freshman year when the Golden Lions last won a state championship in 2018. They hope to go out on top and once again bring home a title in their last season with the program.

Lindsey Nelson, Staff Writer

Stepping into high school is terrifying on its own, but simultaneously stepping onto a varsity court is a completely different level of intimidating.

However, that didn’t stop four little freshmen three years ago from completely shifting the trajectory of the varsity volleyball team and starting a new era of excellence. 

Improving since then are seniors Emma Farrell, Kate LaRocco, Annemarie Rakoski, and Lura Underwood, the final remaining players from the 2018 state title team, and they face another championship opportunity in their future to book-end their high school careers and make their freshman selves proud. 

“Our freshman year we felt more scared, and we listened to [the seniors] more,” LaRocco said.

Despite this fear, the Class of 2022 had a stellar varsity debut. From intense practices that bonded them with their teammates to challenging matches against competitive opponents, the four freshmen players quickly polished their skills and found their groove. They soon were rounding out their first season as varsity athletes by defeating Marist to win a state championship, the program’s first since 2015, and Rakoski herself slammed the ball down to score the winning point. 

Although not on varsity at the time, senior setter Avery Brown said, “Freshman year, our seniors were great and brought confidence and energy which contributed to the win; everyone looked up to them.”

Now as seniors themselves, the original four attribute their 2018 title largely to their former leaders. They recognize that despite their own impressive skills, the seniors undoubtedly held the power back then. Settling for state runner-up their sophomore year and region champions their junior year, the Class of 2022 is aching to round out their final season with a state championship title. 

“Everyone knows we’re serious,” said LaRocco. “It’s not like we’re the boss of someone, it’s like leading them.” 

The core four is joined by three more seniors, Brown, Rose Porter, and Haley Froseth. With a grand total of seven, the seniors all emulate the leadership and spirit that led them to victory years ago. 

Sophomore Isa Boyd said, “They’re all super high energy, funny, and supportive, and they always make me laugh.”

According to the seniors, they like to keep practices chill and friendly, but that doesn’t stop them from drilling the ball full speed at a sophomore or singling out a weak freshman on serve receive. Their goal is to train the underclassmen to match the energy and skill of the seniors, so when the time comes, everyone on the team is ready to win. 

“Some of them still get nervous to play, but I think they’re excited too. This is their first time on varsity, and they could potentially win state,” said Porter, who is a captain. “Whoever [Coach John Frederick] puts in will win it for us.” 

This season the cards are in their favor. Ranked 3rd in the nation and 1st in the state, these girls know a state championship match is likely in their future. The seniors are set on winning, and the underclassmen have absorbed their hunger for gold as well. These girls are fully confident they can win it this year because of the amazing skill level and compatibility of the team. 

The state playoffs start in late October, and they are seeded to play McIntosh in the quarterfinals and Blessed Trinity in the semifinals. The two schools are also their biggest threats and rivals which is why the girls are confident that if they make it to the championship match, they will leave with a first place trophy. 

“Although we lost a lot of people [from previous years] we are still more determined to win, especially since it’s our last year,” Brown said. 

The last couple seasons caused the team’s morale to waver with the loss of key players, setbacks from the pandemic, and a division jump from 4A to 5A, but the seniors are determined to overcome these challenges and conclude their time in St. Pius volleyball program with a thrilling state championship victory this November.