In each varsity girls sport this school year, the Warriors saw an improvement in overall record or, in a select few sports, an increase in depth and athleticism.
“Sometimes high school athletics runs in cycles,” Del Norte High athletic director Bob Hadfield says. “The girls are in an up cycle.”
Perhaps no sport better illustrated the nature of the up cycle than Warriors volleyball. Del Norte, with a streak of 22 consecutive Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League titles from 1989 to 2009 still fresh in many minds, qualified for the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section playoffs and won two more league games than in 2011.
The Warriors did all that with a young roster — just four seniors among the 13 contributors.
“You’d better make it to all those games next year,” outgoing senior Marissa Van Dyke says. “It’s going to be wild.”
Soccer went from two wins to three, with one more tie and a noted uptick in the quality of play.
Senior Taylor Cleland and sophomore Jordan Babich won an HDN doubles title in girls tennis, then followed that up with a rare victory at the NCS playoffs.
And girls golf stepped back from previous seasons with a fourth-place HDN League finish, and girls track and field saw its HDN League title streak stop at three in 2013. (The Warriors finished second to Arcata High.) No Del Norte athlete qualified for the CIF State Track Meet, as Morgan Laney did in the shot put. (Laney is finishing up her freshman year at Sacramento State, in which she redshirted.)
But young athletes are carrying the day, in those and other sports. Freshman Regin Loftin and sophomore Kayla Costello are developing into three-sport stars for the Warriors. Others such as Siera Fitzhugh in golf and Nicole Mattz in wrestling — Mattz qualified for the CIF State Girls Wrestling meet this year — are making big gains in individual sports.
Part of the reason Del Norte High has seen across-the-board improvement in female athletics is because the girls teams had a lot of room to improve in the first place. Teams have struggled to win more than half their games, while individuals have limited their practice time in sports to the start and end dates of the season.
Nevertheless, success begets success, and the female Warriors have enjoyed bigger and bigger triumphs over the course of the season. That success is more than what coaches and school officials hope to see — it’s what they expect to see.
And the girls are rising to those expectations.