GENOA – The Genoa-Kingston volleyball team improved, little by little, each season during Keith Foster’s first four years as coach, with all-area libero Olivia Cotton leading the way.
Cotton and Foster’s first four-year senior class played their last match Tuesday in a 25-15, 25-14 loss in the Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Regional championship, the Cogs’ first regional final appearance since 2008.
“Every year, we’ve made progress,” Foster said. “Every year, our confidence and our record has gotten better, … and that’s while strengthening our schedule. Thanks to these girls, they’ve helped bring this program to where it is.”
The Cogs (19-18) came out energized against a team they’ve struggled to beat in recent years, but a win against the Rockets remained elusive.
Behind three aces from junior Lauren Wiltsie, the Rockets (26-11) took a 10-4 lead in the first game. The Cogs couldn’t close the gap to less than five, and Central coasted to the Game 1 win.
G-K took a 4-1 lead in the second game, capped off by an ace from Kylie Dalby, but Central reeled off a 15-1 run to take control.
The Cogs went toe-to-toe with the Rockets for the rest of the game, but they found their stride too late. Cotton had 19 digs and Bridget Halat had seven kills in the loss.
“I felt like we were really excited and we needed to cool down a little bit,” senior Lindsey Sunderlage said. “I feel like we got that toward the end of the second set. I felt like we came back down and were getting comfortable, but it was a little too late. Personally, I thought we kept up with them. I thought we did pretty well, considering years past. This is obviously one of the best years I’ve played volleyball.”
Despite the loss, G-K set a new standard for the program, and helped usher in a new era.
“We were here in Foster’s first year, and so from there on, we’ve always been close with him, going up with him,” Cotton said. “Having other girls follow us, it’s been easy for them to look up to us because we were his first class and we started a new program. It’s hard, but at the same time, it’s awesome that they can look up to us.”
A program that went 3-28 when these seniors were in eighth grade has grown in their four years on the team. The fact the Cogs were in a regional championship, Foster said, could have implications down the road.
“We need to be placed in these situations to be comfortable in these situations,” Foster said. “Because of what these girls have done and the hard work they’ve put in, next year, we get placed in the same situation again, maybe, and we’re going to feel more at ease. Our younger kids were able to watch us play, and I think they said, ‘We’re going to be there someday, and I’m going to be ready for it.’ It’s an exciting day, and a huge step for the program to play in this match.”