There is a phrase with Valor Christian volleyball that has resonated at every level of the program.
Even in a raucous environment Saturday at the Denver Coliseum, the Eagles were not rattled. When their opponent goes on a run or even takes a set, it goes back to a nice reminder.
“(A player’s) most important job is to help the person next to you play better,” Valor Christian head coach Jayne McHugh told The Post. “It becomes contagious and then it’s no big deal (to stop those runs). You massage where the people are standing and trust the person that is taking a little bit more court is capable of it, and then when that other person gets back into their realm of confidence we let them come back in. It’s very smooth.”
The message is received loud and clear from Valor’s four upperclassmen who will play Division I volleyball down to the freshmen team. Even with a bump in the road in its semifinal win over No. 4 seed Rampart — which in this case meant dropping a set — Valor Christian bounced back to reach the Class 5A title game against Rock Canyon.
Saturday night, they won in straight sets, 25-12, 25-19, 25-23 the last of which was in comeback fashion.
Valor Christian, led by a trio of imposing upperclassmen up front, finished 29-0 and dropped just four sets all season. Not too shabby for the No. 19 ranked team in the country, according to USA Today’s Super 25 rankings.
Senior captain and outside hitter Erin McNair is Ivy League-bound (Princeton). Her fellow senior and net partner is Sasha Cohen, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker who recovered from a torn ACL her junior season and will play for Central Florida. Grace Langer, a junior, is verbally committed to play at West Virginia, while junior libero Delaney Russell is pledged to Montana.
For McNair, who along with Cohen was on a varsity team four seasons ago that reached the state final but fell short, an almost-flawless 2022 has proven memorable because of the chemistry forged after that first appearance.
“I’ve never had a team that’s had a closer connection and we all really want this. We’re all on the same page,” McNair said. “Four years later, to be in the state championship again is really special.”
For Cohen, who made her return to high school as the COVID 2020 season overlapped with her club season, the upperclassmen have delivered the expectation that anyone can step up when their number is called. She believes the inherent sense of trust is a hallmark of the program.
“As upperclassmen we try to set an example for the younger girls and work as a team,” Cohen said. “But it’s like, I don’t think we even think we rule over anyone else. I think we all play, equally to each other and for a unit. There’s seven upperclassmen and we want to finish how we always wanted to.”
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