Highlands girls volleyball nets long-awaited victory

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 | 9:48 AM

Over the last couple of weeks Highlands girls volleyball coach Caroline Bain could sense her team was on the cusp of breaking through.

When her players walked into the gym Thursday night with a confident look in their eyes it affirmed her belief.

“They just came in and said they wanted to get a win on their home floor,” Bain said.

They did just that, sweeping Springdale, 3-0, and made history by being the first Highlands girls volleyball team to win a match in a decade.

The program restarted three years ago after a long hiatus. Bain was 20 years old, fresh off finishing her volleyball career at Robert Morris at the time she was hired. The win was a sweet reward for the collective effort of building from scratch over the last few years.

“We worked so hard to get to that moment, and to win for the first time at Highlands in 10 years is pretty special for those girls,” Bain said. “They worked to learn the sport of volleyball over the last three years and learned how to win as a team. I’m so proud of them. Not only did they win (Thursday), but they made school history. They deserve it.”

To put in perspective, when Bain arrived she inherited a group of girls that for the most part had never played volleyball before.

They just wanted to learn the sport and worked on building a culture at the same time. The motto for the season was “trust the process.”

There have been some tough growing pains on an uphill climb to try and catch up to much more experienced opponents, but Bain said the attitude within the team was always positive.

Girls on the team would watch film and work on their own outside of daily practices to try to bridge the experience gap. After reaping the reward of a victory, the emotions came out on the court.

“It was pure joy and pure satisfaction for them knowing that their work had led to a tangible result,” Bain said. “There were lots of happy tears. The emotion came from the tough losses they endured, but every bump in the road we endured was worth it for that moment. (Thursday) was evidence that the process is working.”

Jocelyn Bielak had eight service aces for the Golden Rams. Eve Johnson and Chiara Mailoli paced the offensive attack aided by strong passes from setter Cassidy Davis. Mailoli is a foreign exchange student from Italy.

Bain got to coach against her sister, Avery, and her two cousins Reese and Rory Pallone, who play for Burrell this year, which was a special highlight for the season.

Now she has another one, watching her girls win for the first time and getting her first win as a coach.

What was most inspiring for her was seeing the belief in one another come out in her team on the court.

“I have all the confidence in the world in these girls and I’ve been trying to relay that over to them so they have confidence in themselves,” Bain said. “You could see that they had that (Thursday), which is the most important thing to me. I want them to have confidence in everything they do.”

After the match Bain asked the players if they wanted to take a day off from practice, because of the victory and the work they put in last week. She was met with a resounding “No!” from her players.

“They actually wanted to add another practice, so we scheduled a practice for Sunday, too,” Bain said. “They are the kind of kids that want to come back for more. We’re going to use this win and ride the momentum and see where it takes us.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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