Cassie Hughes remembers coming into Bloom-Carroll as a freshman playing volleyball a first-year head coach who had hopes of building a program.
“As a freshman, I was nervous but very open-minded,” Hughes, now a senior, said. “I trusted (coach) April (Redding). Now, I’m that confident player.”
Four seasons later, the Bulldogs are an area power knocking on the door of a state championship. They went from the middle of the pack in the Mid-State League-Buckeye Division to consecutive titles, winning 28 consecutive league matches in two seasons.
After falling a game shy of the state final four in 2011, Bloom-Carroll has eviscerated its competition this season, going undefeated against Ohio teams and winning their first regional championship in school history. The Bulldogs play today at Wright State in Fairborn in a Division III state semifinal.
“Every (match), we get better,” senior Haylea VanScoy said Saturday after the Bulldogs’ win in a regional final against West Muskingum. “It just grows our confidence. We try new things. We show people we can (succeed), and it gives us confidence we can do it over and over again.”
The progression of the program has been evident, as Bloom-Carroll has improved each year under Redding.
The Bulldogs also have improved this season. They have played top competition in the state and nationally, and all of it has prepared for them for what they are about to see. They are happy to be in a state semifinal, but Hughes said the goal is two more wins and a title.
“I’ve told them this year is about the climb,” Redding said Saturday. “We’re not going to start where we end up. We’re going to put pieces together, we’re going to keep pushing forward and we’re going to be a better team at the end of the year. And we are absolutely a different team.
“If I look back at some of the scrimmages and how we played, it’s very eye-opening how much hard work and effort they have put into this.”
Bloom-Carroll (24-3) has not lost a set in the postseason, but they are going against defending state champion Miami East. The Vikings (27-1) have lost only five sets all year and have been ranked No. 1 in every state poll this season.
Still, the Bulldogs do not seem intimidated. Hughes said the team saw some short film on Miami East, but that does not matter.
Bloom-Carroll’s focus all season has been on itself, and that’s not going to change no matter who they’re playing.
“We just focus on our game,” Hughes said. “Confidence is key. Volleyball is all about mental toughness.”