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Cusp of greatness

Lewiston Tribune, Idaho — Madison Guernsey, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho

Oct. 18-- Oct. 18--GENESEE -- Despite everything working against it, this year's Genesee High School volleyball team might be the best one Pete Crowley has coached.

The Bulldogs -- like many other high school sports teams -- have had to navigate a pandemic-altered practice and game schedule this fall. They've done it while installing a new two-setter system.

Yet Crowley compares this year's team to his 2013 one that went 34-6 and "did that," he said as he gestured to the state title banner hanging on Genesee's gymnasium wall.

With the regular season now complete, the Bulldogs (14-2, 12-2 in Whitepine League Division I) head to the district tournament, where they'll look to cash in on their coach's high praise.

"It's our last year," said setter Carly Allen, one of seven seniors on Genesee's roster, after the Bulldogs' 25-20, 21-25, 25-17, 25-18 home win Wednesday against Potlatch. "So we want to make it count."

Genesee's schedule has included long breaks and clusters of matches, offering some benefits in the face of adversity.

First, the Bulldogs' preseason summer schedule was shortened. Then, multiple regular-season tournaments were removed from the schedule. Most recently, in late September, the Bulldogs went almost two weeks without playing a game because of COVID-19 outbreaks in the region. After all the rescheduling, Genesee finished the regular season with four matches in three days, testing the Bulldogs' stamina with the district and -- they hope -- state tournament on the horizon.

"I feel like we're like 25 or 30 matches short of where we'd normally be this time of year, but I'm still trying to hold them to that same expectation," Crowley said. "I think we're going to get there. We're going to start rounding into form now and starting to play a little bit more regularly, and we have pretty high expectations for the next couple of weeks."

During the two-week hiatus, Genesee worked on fine-tuning things during practice, especially increasing the speed of the offense and locking down defensively. The extra training time helped. In one of their first matches back, the Bulldogs scored a monumental 25-23, 29-27, 25-20 win Oct. 8 against league rival Troy, the two-time defending state Class 1A Division I champion that had won 44 consecutive league matches.

"We didn't let it bother us that we missed all those opportunities to play during the summer and all the games getting canceled," senior outside hitter Riley Maguire said. "We just kind of shrugged it off and found it as a different opportunity to keep practicing."

Through it all, the Bulldogs have been mastering their transition to the new system. By using Allen and sophomore setter Makenzie Stout on the court at the same time, Crowley ensures he'll always have a setter in the front row. And when they're not setting, Allen and Stout share the role of defensive specialist.

The system enhances what Crowley calls a "super talented" offense.

"At this level, if you have strength at every position and you don't have a weak spot, that's pretty special," Crowley said. "We've got major power at every position."

That across-the-board talent is why Crowley compares this year's team to the 2013 state champions. That was his only other team that possessed the same balance and firepower.

That's why he's not shy about his hopes for this team. It can be a "did that" team too.

"We can be No. 1," senior outside hitter Claira Osborne said. "(The Troy win) just proved it to all of us."

Guernsey may be contacted at mguernsey@lmtribune.com, (208) 848-2258 or on Twitter @MD_Guernsey.

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