SHS Volleyball Digs Winning


photo by bob christofferson

SHS volleyball players on the court celebrate after winning a point at home.

The SHS gym is filled with hundreds of students screaming and waving their arms as Janesville Craig serves the match point of the final set. Stoughton bumps, sets, and serves the ball to Craig, who hits it out of bounds. Cheers emerge as the ball crashes outside the line, and SHS students storm the court to congratulate the winners. The SHS volleyball team hasn’t earned a regional championship since 2016, yet fans and players remembered precisely how to celebrate such a big win on the night of Oct. 22.
This championship was not easily earned but made possible due to the girls’ and coaches’ belief in one another and themselves. The team’s motto this last season under first-year volleyball coach Mike Schmidt was “All in, in us all.” This short phrase’s meaning took the team a long way, according to junior Brooklyn Radecke.
“[Coach Schmidt] changed my mindset. We all believed in ourselves a lot more than we did last year and had more confidence on the court,” Radecke says.
While Schmidt’s influence on the team is undeniable, the girls’ dedication to one another made several of their wins possible. Senior team captains Ava Perkins, Amelia Albers, Mariah Clausen, and Cire Smith worked especially hard to make the volleyball environment productive.
“I tried to be positive in everything I did because volleyball is a game of momentum and points. It’s about mistakes,” Smith says. “It’s recognizing that everyone is going to make mistakes, but you have to be positive and lift each other up. You’re not going to have a winning team if you’re all negative towards each other.”
Staying positive was especially important on Oct 27, as nerves were high during their sectionals game against Mukwonago. Although the Vikings were defeated, both Radecke and Smith agree that every player was in the appropriate mindset.
“Throughout the whole game, we all knew we had a fighting chance. We all fought so hard. I never lost hope, and I know the whole team, on and off the court, didn’t lose hope [either],” Radecke says.
SHS volleyball fans showed they also believed in the team’s abilities by traveling across the state to offer their energy and excitement to the team.
“[Our supporters] made all the difference because we as a volleyball team have the skills to do well in volleyball, but [playing] with the whole community to support you is amazing,” Smith says. “It’s crazy to stand on a volleyball court and have hundreds of your friends and schoolmates there cheering for you.”
Radecke had extra support on the team since her two sisters, Faith and Brianna also played on varsity, while their brother Jeffrey was one of the team’s managers.
“It’s really fun being able to connect with [my siblings] outside of high school and then [being] able to play with them at home and talk about [volleyball] in car rides with them as well,” Radecke says.
Connection and communication have been a major theme throughout the last volleyball season, which many players credit to their success.
“The [team] chemistry was really good. We had 11 seniors, so we’ve had girls that have been playing with each other for more than six years. We have a lot of siblings on the team, so we’re all really familiar with each other. This has helped a lot,” Smith says.
The 2023 volleyball season will look very different with 11 players gone, but Smith isn’t concerned because she knows that the players still on the team “want to get even farther than we did this year.”
Personally, Radecke will be working on her mindset before her senior season to help the team reach new goals and stay positive in the absence of so many vital players.
“I would like to improve on not getting down on myself or thinking I suck on the court. [I want to know] I can do better than the last few points and be able to get over it,” Radecke says.
Dealing with doubts and nerves is something Smith has faced as well, but after playing volleyball for six years, she has found a routine that works for her.
“The locker room before a game is one of my favorite parts of volleyball because we’re all playing music, doing each other’s hair, and hyping each other up,” Smith says. “Having consistency in warmup and being able to hang out with the team before the game helps calm my nerves.”
Although the team did not move on past sectionals, awards were given to players and Schmidt, proving the team’s talent. Albers won First Team All-Conference, Radecke won Second Team All-Conference, Perkins won Honorable Mention, and Schmidt won coach of the week.
Overall, the team embraced their positive attitudes after the loss at sectionals by focusing on their regional championship title and how much fun they had throughout the whole season.
“We were all so proud of ourselves for how far we’ve come. We were encouraging each other and we were also grieving in a way [after sectionals] because we were sad the season was over,” Smith says. “There’s never been a point in the season that I’ve been wanting it to be over. I just wanted to keep winning. I wanted to keep playing every game I could.”