MUNCIE – It was just a routine conditioning drill — short sprints, to be exact — at the end of a preseason practice.
While Delta’s season opener was more than two weeks away at the time, one of the team’s two seniors did something that could set the tone for not only the rest of the preseason, but through the entire fall as well.
Audrey Woodin’s message after conditioning was loud and clear.
“If we would have ran this hard on the others as we did with that last one,” she told the team, “then maybe we wouldn’t have done so many.”
That certainly got Heidi Zickgraf’s attention.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had an upperclassman do that,” the Delta coach said, “but I think they have some goals in mind, and they want to do what they need to do to accomplish those goals.”
If Woodin’s impassioned act showed anything, it’s that the Eagles aren’t just sticking to the status quo. The urgency is there for a team which went 27-6 last season.
The team’s motto, “Earned, not given,” has special meaning to Woodin and the team’s other senior, Kaylee Nichols.
“We’re really putting that in perspective,” Woodin said. “It’s our last year; we’ve never won county, we’ve never won conference. We’ve won sectionals once, but to me that’s not enough — I want more than that. I want county, I want conference, I want state.
“To do that, we have to push everyone as a program to get better.”
Zickgraf is anxious to get going with this group because of its experience. Though Woodin and Nichols are the only seniors, the team is littered with juniors, including Mississippi State commit Gabby Zgunda, who will play libero this season after playing defensive specialist last year. The Eagles have their top three attackers back (Woodin, Nichols and Camryn Campbell) plus a setter with experience in Kelsee Roe. Rebecka Vannatta appeared in every set on the front line as a sophomore, and Chloe Stitt will see action as well, being eligible this season after transferring from Madison-Grant last year.
With a lot of familiar faces, Delta hopes to go into its first match, which is August 20 against Jay County, with a lot of momentum.
“We have 12 practices,” Nichols said, “and 12 seems like a lot, but before we know it, it’s going to be Thursday and we’ll be starting at Jay County. Then there’s no going back.”
And while the season finally starting is something to get excited for, the Eagles are operating with the end game in mind. Winning all those matches didn’t mean much when they lost in their sectional opener to Central in four sets.
And guess who will be standing in Delta’s path this year? That’s right, rival Yorktown, which drops down to Class 3A this season.
“That motivation alone is something they’re striving for,” Zickgraf said. “I think they could go 30-0, and if they don’t win their sectional, they feel like they had an awful season.
“Winning the sectional is obviously a big goal for them. They want to accomplish that and go even further on, but getting out of the sectional is a big thing for them.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.