SCHERTZ, Texas – The message was clear before the season even began: Leave a legacy.
"All of the seniors were talking about it," said senior right side hitter Abigail Oliver. "That's a big thing for us. We want to leave that legacy for Clemens. I know that we haven't done this well in a really long time, and we want to set that standard high."
So far, the Clemens volleyball team has delivered. With a lethal offense led by junior outside hitter and Arizona commit Shelby O'Neal, the Buffaloes rolled through District 26-6A play and finished with a perfect 14-0 record in district play. They've been equal parts dominant and clutch over their current 15-game winning streak, and dramatic five-set victories over Steele, New Braunfels and Canyon have provided exclamation marks for a team that was ready to turn the corner.
"We started off the season very strong," junior setter Cassidy Steadman said. "We came together as a team much closer than what could have been expected, and it really just blossomed into what we currently have. Now going into playoffs, we've just succeeded so much more than anyone could ask for."
That 14-0 district record is a culmination of growth for a team that has seen steady progress in each of the past four seasons, improving incrementally from a 3-9 record in 2015 to a 12-2 record in 2017. But rather than crumble under the weight of expectations in 2018, the Buffaloes have kept things loose and stayed together. It all plays into Clemens' mantra, a phrase borrowed from the television show Friends: "I'll be there for you."
"They came up with it," head coach Robyn Wunderlich explained. "We started putting together some T-shirt ideas and we just kind of ran with it. It's come true. They are friends. They have been there for each other. Everyone's happy to be here, happy with what they're doing, and that's where it really starts. Attitude is everything. We really push for that every day."
"We can have fun and be serious at the same time," Steadman said. "It really lets us jump into games with confidence."
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, Clemens now sets their sights on a deep playoff run. Last year, the team advanced to the second round for just the second time in the last decade. Both trips resulted in sweeps against Reagan. This year, the battle-tested Buffaloes have plenty of experience performing in big situations, and they won't change their approach moving forward.
"We keep our heads straight, don't take anything lightly and keep our foot on the gas," Steadman said. "We'll take it game by game, practice by practice and I'm excited to see how we can push ourselves even further."
"We just want to do the best we can and we want to get as far as we can, farther than we've ever been before," said Oliver. "Hopefully we can end it with a bang and have fun."