By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
For 18 straight years, the Del Norte High varsity volleyball team has maintained an incredible mark.
During those years, the Warriors have won outright or have been co-champions of the Big 5 Conference.
Last year, the team went 17-11 overall, was undefeated in Big 5 play, and won one playoff game before falling to eventual division three champion Campolindo.
This year's team is determined to make it 19 years.
Head coach Megan Curtis said the squad has been hard at work putting maximum effort into the two-a-day practices, making sure everything gels before the season opener on Tuesday night at home against Brookings
"We're doing good so far," she said.
Curtis said the girls know that being on top for so long means the other teams in the Big 5 are determined to ensure the streak is snapped.
"They are all gunning for us," Curtis said, but added the team thrives on knowing they have to always play at a high level.
"They say ¬Ďbring on the competition,"' Curtis said. "We have a tradition here and they want to continue that tradition."
Junior Tabitha Hillman said the team has been working hard and knows with the other teams determined to unseat them, they have to keep stepping up their game.
"It makes us work even harder," she said.
A key returner is senior Deja Hartwick, the only junior out of five last year who is returning to the volleyball team.
Last year, Hartwick, who plays the crucial position of setter, was co-MVP of the league.
"She brings experience and provides a leadership role on the court," Curtis said.
Hartwick does an excellent job leading the team on the court, making sure everyone is doing what needs to be done and that the team is on the same page, Curtis said.
"I think we have a strong team this year," Hartwick said. "Everyone's working so hard and striving to get better. It's an awesome group of girls."
Curtis said she believes several of last year's sophomores are proving in practice they have what it takes to do well on the court this year.
One player that Curtis believes will step up is junior Ashley Owen.
She said Owen is determined to help the team succeed and to play college volleyball and is putting in the effort to attain her goals.
"She's determined to become a better player and is working hard," Curtis said. This summer, the team had weightlifting and conditioning sessions and Owens was a key participant, she said.
Hillman, who started last year is another player Curtis said will be a key component of the squad this year.
Del Norte also has a lot of versatility, with several players able to play different positions all over the court, which helps tremendously, Curtis said.
She said the depth appears to be very good, which bodes well for this year.
Curtis said the team is also connecting off the court. Earlier this week, they took a three-day team -building camping trip.
"You have a different mix of girls each year," Curtis said. "It gives them a chance to get to know each other better."
On the junior varsity team, former head varsity coach Debbie Lorenzi, who helped the team to 16 straight league or co-league titles, will be the head coach.
Curtis, who said Lorenzi was her coach when she played at Del Norte, said it's nice to have her back and have someone who knows the program and the system so well teaching the younger girls.
The Warriors open the season against Brookings at home. The JV squad plays at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
Currently, the team is set to play in the small gym at the high school. The regular gym is currently having work done on it, such as replacing the court floor. Work was supposed to be finished before school started, but it appears it will be delayed until at least later this month.