As the District 10-AAA volleyball tournament begins Thursday, West Creek is looking for any edge it can get in searching for the program’s first district tournament championship.
Those are going to be long odds as Rossview resides in this league and no district team, outside of Dickson County, has been able to touch the Lady Hawks and not even the Lady Cougars were able to do it in the regular season. Rossview is on a three-year streak unlike any other, having not dropped a district match in the regular season during that time. Last year Dickson upset the Lady Hawks in the tournament but now Dickson is gone — having moved to District 11 — leaving Rossview free to run wild.
However, Alex Wilkens and her Lady Coyote teammates hope to take a page out of Dickson’s book and pull off a district tournament upset.
Wilkens has been a four-year starter on West Creek’s varsity team and the senior has seen the program evolve from a team in the bottom half of the district to a squad consistently near the top half. It’s been that way since Wilkens’ sophomore year and the arrival of head coach Josh Stoeckle. Both have been the foundation of a team that is currently 29-12 and 11-3 in district play this season. And Wilkens, despite shifting from middle hitter as a freshman to setter her sophomore and junior years to outside hitter this season, has been a rock.
She is third on the team in aces (50), first in kills (190), third in digs (104), third in assists (48) and tied for fourth in service points (110).
The Leaf-Chroincle caught up with Wilkens just an hour before her team’s regular season district finale win against Northeast (25-21, 25-4, 25-15) Tuesday at Eagles Gym. Wilkens had 15 kills in that victory while teammate Shayla Smith had six kills, seven aces and 15 service points. Kayla Ford finished with four aces and 25 assists while Ashlin Whitted added two kills, five aces and 11 service points.
LC: Obviously everyone is chasing Rossview and has been for a few years now. Despite how dominant the Lady Hawks have been, does what Dickson County did last year give other teams hope that it could happen again in the tournament?
AW: “I think it does. We all know Rossview is a great team. What they do on game-by-game basis is incredible but I think any team can be beat. We want to be the team to do it. We understand that’s going to be hard because Rossview has a lot of momentum but if there’s any West Creek team that’s going to beat Rossview, it’s us right now. We’re the best we’ve ever been here so this is the time to do it.”
LC: First things first. You guys must get through the first day of the district tournament (Thursday). Have you guys been thinking about Rossview already?
AW: “Not really. We know it’s one game at a time. We have to be patient and we have to play the team in front of us. But I think its natural to wonder what could happen. We just try not to think about Rossview too much and concentrate on ourselves and who we’re playing in the moment. We think about Rossview when we play them.”
LC: Not to sound insulting but a lot of teams have probably said that they were going to be the team to beat Rossview and outside of Dickson County nobody has been able to do it. What will it take to beat them?
AW: “For us it’s not a lack of physical ability. We have the athletes to play well against Rossview. It’s mental for us. Rossview has been able to psych us out I guess. We have to get past that mental block first.”
LC: Talk about how different this program is now as opposed to where it was when you were a freshman.
AW: “It hasn’t been a drastic change. I mean the school was still young and the athletes at West Creek were really adjusting to a new school, new coaches, new players. I think we all had to learn each other and find our own identity. When the school first opened there were a lot of kids coming from Northeast that had to make the transition to West Creek so I think all of that took time. Once we all settled and got used to it and the talent started to come in the program changed and we were more successful.”
LC: Every volleyball coach I’ve talked to stress the importance of their girls getting out and playing club volleyball during the offseason. Does West Creek subscribe to the same philosophy?
AW: “Absolutely. We consider it essential. It definitely helps with recruiting and colleges coming out to see you. I play with a team in Nashville and we have some other girls on the team that play as well. It’s important if you want to face some of the top competition and want to better your skills.”
LC: How has your game developed during that process of transitioning from club volleyball to high school volleyball?
AW: “My freshman year I played middle hitter and I was horrible. I sprayed the ball all over the court. I was not that good at all. But I worked on my game during the offseason and club volleyball helped me with that. Then I developed into a pretty good setter and this year I moved to outside because coach needed me to play that spot. It’s not all about me so I’m willing to dow whatever it takes for us to win.”