CLEARMONT — The school of Arvada-Clearmont takes pride in its basketball prowess. The Lady Panthers proved that this past season, making their community proud, hoisting their first regional championship banner in over a decade.
Head coach Sarah Walker — who also coaches the volleyball team at AC — believes she can use this forward momentum on the basketball court and transfer it over to the volleyball court.
“I’ve been in Clearmont six years, and when I came here it was a basketball community and we play basketball, and they just do volleyball for something to do,” Walker said. “It has been a change of culture for them to realize you can be a basketball player that is also a very dominant volleyball player. We can have a program that does both.”
Not only do the two sports utilize the same hardwood floor, but many of the skills learned in either compliment the other. Movements such as running, jumping and transitioning stand as skills used in both sports.
The Lady Panthers have grown to realize the similarities and with that have developed a larger appetite for volleyball success.
“You can now kind of see that cultural shift,” Walker said. “We’ve explained to them, ‘When I’m in volleyball I can be invested, and when it’s time to play basketball, I can be invested in basketball, and be able to turn those two things on and off when needed.”
That mentality has already shown in just the first couple weeks of practice. The team has paid more attention to details and caught on to things much quicker that they did last season.
Continuity helps in the department, as well. Walker has held the head coaching position for six years, so each and every girl in the program is accustomed to her coaching style. Times where Walker would have stopped practice to explain a drill, positioning and technique have been replaced with consistent action and tweaking little things when necessary.
“The consistency of coaching — Mike Sauers and I have been together five years — those little things that you take for granted sometimes start to add up,” Walker said. “… We feel a little bit more confident with where our program is at now.”
The Lady Panthers only lost one player to graduation from last year’s squad and picked up a couple freshman and a couple upperclassmen. Samantha Williams makes her way to AC from Buffalo and Ashlynn Fennema returns to floor after missing all of last season as she recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Kristen Klaahsen — who played the libero last season but may change positions this year — represents the lone senior captain on the team. She, much like her coach, feels much more confident in this year’s team with all the experience they’ve gained over the last couple years.
Klaahsen doesn’t want to get to ahead of herself, but she’d love to advance to the state tournament as a senior, something she’s never done in the volleyball arena.
“If we make it to state this year and succeed at state — even if we don’t win games per say and just have some good games and sets — I think that will be a success for us,” Klaahsen said. “That will show a lot growth if we were to make it to state.”
Klaahsen, like many of her teammates, has reached the state tournament in basketball, something her small community holds near and dear. As Klaahsen final swan song, she and the Lady Panthers, would like to make their town just as proud with their play and success on the volleyball court.