Heritage Hall's Bradi Ryan has had enough of second place.
Just hearing the words “state runner-up” elicit a sigh and an eye roll from the senior volleyball standout.
The Chargers' five-set losses to Cascia Hall in the Class 5A volleyball state finals the past two seasons are still fresh on her mind, as they have been all season.
“What's happened in the past has motivated me a lot,” Ryan said. “Personally, I've kept that in mind as I worked really hard over the summer and into this season. We've all been that way. I've seen it with how hard we work in practice. I know how bad we all want to go win it.”
So far this season, the extra motivation has paid off.
Heritage Hall (17-5) is the top-ranked team in 5A and the favorite to win what has been an elusive state championship for its three seniors.
“We've really pushed ourselves this year to make sure we don't come up short for a third year in a row. We're seniors, and it's our time to win,” said Sydney Collison, who is one of three seniors on the team along with Ryan and Lindsey Grace.
“Being No. 1 most of the season has been pretty great,” Grace said. “We've been very motivated to stay in that top spot. That's our spot this year and we don't want to lose it.”
Coach Dana Schwab credits Ryan, Collison, and Grace as the main reason behind the Chargers' success so far.
“They each bring something to the table as a leader of this program,” said Schwab, who is in her first year as head coach after serving as an assistant last season. “They all three work very well together and the rest of the players respond really well to them. That's helped us maintain our chemistry throughout this season.”
To better prepare for the playoffs this season, Heritage Hall has played one of the state's toughest schedules. Twenty of the Chargers' 23 games have come against teams ranked no lower than No. 12 in their class. All five losses have come against teams ranked in the top five of Class 6A.
“Going into the season our plan was to challenge ourselves with the schedule to make sure we were prepared going into state,” Schwab said. “We purposely wanted it to be tough for the girls and they like to be challenged. In that aspect, we've planned a little bit better going into the postseason this year than in the past.”
Heritage Hall won four consecutive state championships from 2005-08, but hasn't won one since. For the seniors, it's important to leave behind a legacy of their own in a tradition-rich program that has a total of eight state championships.
“The three seniors, we're pretty close and we've been together here since middle school,” Grace said. “It would mean a lot to win it with them. And it's pretty important to all three of us to get a state championship and add to the tradition here.”
The Chargers close out the regular-season schedule Thursday night at OCS and will begin the postseason on Oct. 8 in the regional tournament.