Throughout the season, the Central Christian School volleyball team has used quotes for inspiration. Among them is “Sometimes it’s not how good you are, but how bad you want it.”

“Win or lose, we want to leave every game knowing we fought the hardest,” said senior outside hitter Lauren Rickabaugh.

So far this year, the Tigers are showing a strong desire for success. With a 9-2 record in the Class 1A Mountain Valley League (14-5-2 overall), they’ve already more than doubled their 2017 league win total. With two games to play entering Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. home match against Hosanna Christian, they are third in the 10-team conference, of which six teams make a district playoff.

This will be Central Christian’s first appearance in the district playoff since 2013, before coach Brooke Smalstig stepped away from coaching for two years.

The Tigers wrap up the regular season Thursday at Triad.

Central Christian is playing better as a team than last year, when it went 4-8 in league play, Smalstig said. While the Tigers have always played well defensively, she said this is the best play she has had on offense.

“I think we’ve had a lot more unity on our team and more drive,” she said.

The team is also playing looser, with players using their own handshakes and chants, Rickabaugh said.

“I think it’s being able to laugh and move on from mistakes. We always say ’next point,’ ” she said. “Every point is a new point, so fight for the point in that moment.”

That mindset is reflected in another quote the team goes by — “Don’t waste a good mistake.”

“We want to learn from our mistakes and be better the next time,” Smalstig said.

Smalstig saw potential in the team before the season, but said you never know how well you can do until you see the other teams. Still, the Tigers set a goal of doubling the previous season’s league win total.

The Tigers feel confident they can keep winning, as long as they keep a positive mindset, Smalstig said.

Smalstig sees Rickabaugh, who can play any position as the team’s most valuable player. But the Tigers have also gotten strong contributions from sophomore outside hitter Myka Delamarter, who leads the team in kills and is considered the most improved player.

Megan Stafford, a junior libero, has also been a major contributor.

“She’s just so reliable in the back row, we just feel so at peace with her back there,” Smalstig said. “She’s willing to dive all over the floor.”

Two players, freshman Annika Poet and sophomore Issy Mills, have stepped in at setter this season.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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