SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Since 2012, two teams have consistently dominated the District 27 standings: Reagan, who has won six straight district crowns, and Churchill, who has finished as the district runners-up in five of the past six years.
The Chargers are hoping 2018 will be their turn to finish atop the standings, and after starting 22-6, they look primed to compete once again.
"I think we're right where we want to be," said head coach Jo Anne Hultgren, "We've dropped a couple matches when we were right in the thick of things, but we know we have the talent to play with good teams."
"We expected to be a successful team and obviously it wasn't just going to happen for us," senior setter Madison Groff said. "We knew we were going to have to work extremely hard because nothing comes naturally, no matter how much talent you have."
Only two seniors remain from last year's team: Groff, and one of the best outside hitters in the San Antonio area, Notre Dame-commit Caroline Meuth. Both have been impressed with how the underclassmen have stepped up so far.
"I don't actually notice that there's only two of us, because everyone is so much more mature than you could really ever imagine," Meuth explained. "There's so much maturity on the team, especially from the other juniors, that it just feels like we're a connected team. There is no separation. We're all just meshed together."
"A great team is led by players and how all of us as a whole can lead," Groff said. "It's not just one person or two people leading, it's everyone as a whole."
That maturity has helped the team hit their stride in recent weeks. Churchill has now won 12 consecutive sets over four straight matches, a streak that started with the Chargers facing an 0-2 deficit on the road against Canyon in late August.
"We've shown that we have the grit we need," Meuth said. "We've shown that we can do it, now we just have to do it every time now. Effort is always the key factor. If you can give more effort than the other side and if you can fight harder than they can, you're almost guaranteed to win. We work on having energy and a sense of urgency, but not panic. That's our biggest thing, being urgent but not panicking."
The Chargers will face their rival, Reagan, for the first time this season Tuesday night at the Blossom Athletic Center, but regardless of the outcome, it's clear this Churchill team is on the right track toward success.
"We don't have any issues, we don't have any problems and we don't have any bumps in the road," Hultgren said. "They're all in support of each other, which is how we try to run our program. They're a team first, they always support their teammates, and they really buy into what we're trying to do."
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