Overlake’s new volleyball head coach, Mindy McGrath, was all smiles ahead of practice on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
They’ve got a stellar squad at their fingertips and the Owls are racking up plenty of wins early in the season. With an overall record of 7-1 at the time of publication, Overlake is ranked eighth in Class 1A on the MaxPreps website.
“It’s not very often at level 1A that we find ourselves in a team that is already very strong and very well trained. The girls were amazing. It’s just a great experience, ”said McGrath, adding that the girls play multiple positions and are full of excitement to play with each other and continue to develop their arsenal of skills.
Junior Sydney Goad, who is one of the Owls’ three captains, said Overlake’s team spirit is paramount and the team has strong defensemen and hitters.
“I think we’re a very close team,” Goad said, adding that they welcomed three freshmen – China Bozarth, Ryma Patil and Sydney Martin – on board. “I feel like we all (ghosts and newcomers) clicked extremely well, which made our first game really fun. I have the impression that we have known each other for so long.
The captain’s crew is completed by senior Annabelle Wiley and junior Ivy Haight, who is 5ft 11in with sophomore Diya Mishra. Last season, Goad and senior Marusia Levanidova were the first teams in the Emerald City League and Haight was a second team.
Overlake has clinched league titles and earned state places over the past two seasons and won his first state game in school history last year.
Haight said she really enjoys being a part of such a successful program.
She listed a crucial takeaway from last season: “Throughout the whole season learning that it’s not sprinting at the start. Make sure we are all rested. I know going back to school is always a little tricky, so don’t completely exhaust everyone at first, but save the best for the end – which is the state.
McGrath is familiar with the state tournament terrain. Last year, WIAA Coach of the Year guided his 1A Charles Wright Academy team from Tacoma to second place at the Yakima Valley SunDome. This year, she became closer to her family in Monroe and is now a physical education coach and teacher in Overlake.
“It worked like magic that they had what I needed to be able to move,” said McGrath. She replaces Judge Magraw, who had two exceptional seasons at Overlake and is now on the University of Portland coaching staff.
McGrath’s current team have advanced to the semi-finals at the recent SunDome Volleyball Festival in Yakima.
The coach said she places great importance on defense, passing and serving, as well as the psychological aspects of the team’s environment.
It’s about “Building a team and knowing your role within the team. Appreciate your worth, whether it’s during the game if you’re the starting six or if you’re on the bench. For me, the important life lessons that sometimes can only be learned from team sports, ”said McGrath.
As Wiley entered the gym during the recent practice, she was excited to discuss how the players have grown together over the past few years and have continued to create a successful program.
This is Wiley’s last season with the Owls and there’s a vibrancy to her vocal delivery that newcomer McGrath also brings to the fore as she puts the team into action.
“This year has been great. We have so many amazing players coming in, then ghosts coming back, and I feel like our team has never been so close before, ”said Wiley. “We all really support each other. I think the best part about this team is how equally respectful everyone is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senior or a freshman, we’re all on this team and we’re all giving in to this game.