BUMP! SET! STATE!

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Photo by Josh McDonald/ The Kellogg Wildcats are on their way to the 3A State Tournament for the first time in 21 years. They open against Snake River tomorrow morning.

There’s a distinct sound that you hear when a hand hits a volleyball.

It’s satisfyingly loud, from the initial smack to the sound it makes as it hits the floor, there is just something about it that makes you want to hear it over and over again.

For the Kellogg Lady Wildcats it’s been 21 long years since they have heard that sound at the state tournament level.

Not that they haven’t had the talent, but something has always seemed to get in the way at the most inopportune time.

Not this year.

After knocking off Priest River last week to qualify for the 3A State Tournament, the girls have taken the perfect approach as they walk into territory that they none of them were alive to see the last time it happened.

“We have nothing to lose,” coach Stephanie Brunner said. “We are going down there where no one has any expectations from us and we should embrace that. I hope that we can use that to stay relaxed.”

At an earlier practice this week, that aire of relaxed confidence was in full display as the girls went through some of their everyday drills.

With Ariana Grande’s God is a Woman blasting through the gym you could feel both calm mentality while seeing each one of the players find their own sense of swagger.

In this day and age swagger, or swag (as the kids say) is just as important to athletics as being talented is.

And these girls have swag in spades.

These girls have cold blooded killer instinct, hype, the ability to laugh off miscues, and most importantly, no drama.

Brunner is looking forward to seeing how her girls react to a new high stakes environment, not out of concern, but the excitement of wanting them to see that they are worthy of where they are.

“These girls are getting a taste of where they belong,” Brunner said. “No matter what the outcome is they will be hungry for more. Our greatest strength ironically happens to come from our greatest weakness. Deep down the girls are still realizing their potential and how amazing the level of play they can compete at. I feel once they wrap their head around the reality that they deserve and belong in a state competition the growth we will see moving forward will be unstoppable.”

Brunner won’t be looking for anything more than what they already know they can do, she has a veteran-laden team, led by two all-league players in Jaron Figueroa and Cierra Brandt, she has a youth factor as well which should bode well for the team right now and moving forward.

But Brunner wants them to immerse themselves in this experience and find joy in competing at Idaho’s highest level.

“I hope the girls remember to be present, be in the moment and have fun playing the game of volleyball,” Brunner said. “I want them to enjoy what they earned. I want them to know they deserve this and have earned it. Making it to state is the proof. Now it’s time to use our skills and have fun.”

The Wildcats will look to recreate their own version of that satisfying volleyball sound this weekend.

The Kellogg Volleyball team will open their State Championship against Snake River on Friday morning at 11 a.m. (MST, 10 a.m. our time) at Mountain View High School.

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