SPRINGFIELD – Things are looking up for the Thurston volleyball team, which just clinched the Class 5A Midwestern League championship with a straight-set victory at home last over Springfield.
But the Colts have bigger fish to fry. The last time they made it as far as the Elite Eight was 2017, and coach David Natt says another deep run could happen.
“This team has a chance to do whatever they put their minds to doing,” Natt said. “As long as they do it unified with the same purpose and same motivation, I remind them all the time that I can’t do it for them, all I can do is give them the training and the tools they need to succeed. As long as they do it as a family – their motto is solidarity. There’s not a lot of individual stuff going on out there – they’re definitely a team. It’s a blessing to coach.”
The Colts’ team play is epitomized by senior front-line player Julia Cook, who had 16 kills, 13 digs, 5 aces and 2 assists in the 25-14, 25-20, 25-7 victory over rival Springfield. After the match, Cook signed a letter-of-intent to play for Bushnell.
“The last 2-3 months I went to some open gyms and I liked the vibe of the girls there and I really liked the coaches,” Cook said. “Plus, I wanted to stay close to home, at least for the first couple of years, and Bushnell just stood out to me and I just love everything about it there.”
Cook said she hopes to become a sports psychologist because she’s had to struggle in her own life to become a better athlete and she wants to help others achieve their dreams and goals. She said it’s been especially difficult being a front-line player at only 5-foot-7, but she said she’ll do “whatever it takes to help the team” at Bushnell.
“Julia has been a team leader, but every one of my players has risen to the occasion,” Natt said. “That’s what has been so good about this team. You don’t have to have a captain’s designation on your uniform to be a leader, and even the girls on the bench – you see how engaged every player is – and that’s what’s so great about this team.”
Also against Springfield, Emily Buller racked up 34 assists, 13 digs, 3 aces, and 1 kill; Scout Martin accumulated 13 digs, 11 kills, 3 aces, and 2 blocks; Bailey Tovey picked up 16 digs, 6 kills, and 1 block, and Savannah Efseaff had 11 digs, 6 kills and 1 block.
“We’re almost guaranteed a home playoff game now,” Natt said. “We just have to keep playing good volleyball. Mentally and physically, we’re in the spot we need to be in right now, 110 percent.”
The Colts wrapped up their regular season with two thrilling matches Saturday. First, they lost a five-setter to Crater, losing 16-14 in the final set. Then they won a five-setter against Eagle Point, taking the final set 15-13.