Volleyball has given seniors special connection through years

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Firebird seniors, from left, Alexa Gathman, Miriah Yoder, Jessica Hagen and Morgan Karlstad play their final home match Tuesday (tonight) against Fargo South

By Harry Lipsiea

Journal Sports

Morgan Karlstad, Miriah Yoder, Jessica Hagen and Alexa Gathman are quick to note that today has come a lot sooner than they ever imagined.

After six years of playing together for the Devils Lake volleyball program, the Firebirds’ four seniors will play their final game in front of a home crowd Tuesday evening (tonight).

“We have played together since seventh grade,” Karlstad said. “It’s weird thinking about not being on the same volleyball team anymore.”

It’s been quite the ride for the seniors. A love of the game has really helped form a connection among with the four players.

“Volleyball really is a team game,” Hagen pointed out. “You learn a lot about someone playing next to them. I think that’s why we all enjoy the game so much.”

In addition to the time spent on the court together, the four students athletes have made a lot of memories on road trips to away games as well as in the classroom.

“There have been a lot of great times that we have shared with each other,” Yoder said. “It’s been a lot of fun being on the same team.”

This season, Karlstad, Yoder, Hagen and Gathman have each worked to try and step into leadership roles this season. On a squad with many underclassmen, it’s been important to lead by example.

As the year has gone on, the players feel they have learned their roles as senior leaders.

“I think it’s important to let the younger players know to just stay positive. If something doesn’t go right, just keep your head up,” Gathman said. “That’s something we all tried to tell our teammates.”

It’s been a positive season so far, the players agreed. The Firebirds have showed marked improvement during the 2014 campaign.

Devils Lake, 11-19 on the season, has won more than matches during the campaign than they had in the previous two years.

“It’s been going well,” Karlstad commented. “But we are still working to get better. We know the team we can be, now it’s just showing everybody else.”

First-year Devils Lake head coach Lisa Zimmerman has been impressed by the senior’s performance both on and off the court.

“Sometimes it's hard being a senior and a new coach comes in and tries to shake things up. But these four came ready to listen and to improve,” Zimmerman told the Journal. “They contribute everyday at practice and in games and set a great example for our younger girls.”

The Firebirds have just one match left during the regular season before beginning EDC tournament play. Devils Lake is looking to close out the regular season with a win.

For the seniors, it’s one more opportunity to play in front of their home crowd. A home crowd that they greatly appreciate.

“Our fans are awesome. It makes it so much more fun playing at home,” Karlstad stated.

Hagen added, “We go to a lot bigger schools where their crowds are a lot less into the game than ours.”

After showing continued improvement throughout the season, the Firebirds are hoping to peak during tournament time.

“I think we have gotten a lot better as the season has gone on,” Gathman stated. “We are excited about the tournament. It will be a good opportunity.”

Zimmerman added that the group of players are fine role models for younger players and students alike.

“These girls are intelligent and respectable young ladies that lead our program on and off the court. Their presence in the gym will be missed,” the coach stated.

While their days playing together on the high school volleyball court are almost done, the seniors continue to focus on the season and not anything else.

“You just try not to think about it being you last season. Just go out and play your best,” Karlstad stated.

It’s hard to believe where all the time went, Yoder said.

“It seems like we just started practice and now the season is almost over,” the setter stated. “We’re just trying to enjoy every bit of it.”