Cowan senior setter Madisen Mangus is a confident player, but she is a realist, too. Mangus admits that the odds of her Blackhawks winning the 38th annual Delaware County Volleyball Tournament on Saturday or anytime in the near future are slim.
“It’s very hard for a Class A team to win it,” Mangus says. “I don’t want to doubt the small schools because I’m part of a small school, but I feel like with Yorktown and Wapahani’s programs, they’re going to be on top for a while.”
Six teams play in the county tournament, which kicks off tonight with two opening-round matches, but as recent history and head-to-head results this season indicate, only three of the programs are realistically playing for the championship. The other three, all Class A teams in No. 3 Cowan, No. 5 Wes-Del and Daleville, are playing for pride and to continue to improve for next month’s state tournament.
Those three Class A programs face two obvious obstacles in trying to compete with Delta, Class 2A No. 1 Wapahani and 3A No. 1 Yorktown. First off, there are fewer students at their schools and thus fewer potential players. Secondly, fewer of their players have grown up playing club volleyball.
Wes-Del took advantage of a favorable draw last year to advance to the final and managed to win the opening set before losing to Yorktown in four. That is as close as any of the Class A programs have come to winning county in recent years.
Wes-Del won the inaugural five county volleyball tournament championships (1975-79) and tacked on a sixth in 1985 with Kay Saunders as its coach. Since then, the Warriors have been shut out, and their county title count still stands at six.
Daleville broke through and won the county in 1988 with Dave Shondell at the helm. Shondell soon departed and guided Central to four Class 4A state championships before exiting for Purdue where he is in his 10th year as the head coach.
The Broncos are still stuck on one title, and while they have vastly improved in the past couple seasons, there is still a sizable gap between them and Delta, Wapahani and Yorktown.
“As far as our program goes, we’re still building, and we’re still trying to not only win certain games and get certain titles, but we’re also trying to build an atmosphere,” Daleville coach Justin Richman says. “We’re trying to build a mindset whereas those programs have already gotten that pretty much built in.
“Honestly I try and steer away from comparing us, because that’s one of our problems. We always compare ourselves. The girls get hung up with that, and all they think about is those other programs.”
The Broncos compare favorably to Cowan in that they have at least won a county title.
The next county title for Cowan will be its first. The Blackhawks advanced to the Class A state finals seven times from 1999-2006, yet none of those teams managed to win a county championship.
Cowan drew a bye, but a possible semifinal date with three-time defending county champion and Class 3A No. 1 Yorktown potentially awaits in the Saturday semifinal. The Tigers already swept Cowan with relative ease last week. If the Blackhawks somehow stun Yorktown then they will probably play either Delta or Wapahani in the final and be underdogs in that match, too.
Barring a couple upsets of epic proportions, this county tournament will end like all of the previous ones for Cowan.
“Truthfully, it’s not that big of a deal,” Mangus says, “because I understand there’s the top teams in Indiana in our county.”