It’s been a full decade since Sundance last won a state championship.
The drought has been especially hard because the Bulldogs played in the semifinals of the state tournament every year from 2007-2010 until they failed to make it to state for five consecutive seasons.
But Sundance returned to state last season and advanced to the Class 2A championship match before being swept by three-time defending state champion Wright.
“We were in the championship match and got second,” head coach Greta Crawford said, “and as soon as that was over we were ready to work over and get number one. That was a goal since last November and they’ve worked hard to meet that goal.”
Sundance went 5-0 to start the season, sweeping all five matches. Those wins came against some Class 1A competition, as well as teams they would see during the 2A East Conference season.
Then came the eventful 2-0 sweep of three-time defending Class 4A champion Cheyenne East a week later. The Bulldogs won 25-22, 25-20 to prove that they aren’t only one of the top teams in 2A, but one of the best in the state regardless of classification.
The previous AAU season, numerous camps and weight lifting program were bringing results.
“We weren’t afraid when we played Cheyenne East,” Crawford said. “We tried to keep them out of system, I think we did a good job of that.
“We felt like we could play with anybody. We have great power hitters, blocks, serves.”
Sundance returns both of its all-state selections from last year: senior setter Molly O’Connor and sophomore standout Rigan McInerney. Throw in the contributions of seniors Tacey Martin and Katie Griggs, as well as sophomore libero Teddi Marchant, and the Bulldogs have had a recipe for near constant success.
The Bulldogs ran the table in the conference season (10-0), losing just four out of 34 sets along the way. Wright did beat Sundance earlier in a non-conference tournament match back on Sept. 9, but that was the last time Sundance lost.
Somehow, it has been constant improvement since then.
“We learned something from that game,” Crawford said. “You learn from your losses and we went to work to improve that. We look at our conference as a great challenge because we have a tough conference. Every match you have to perform.”
The pregame shirts the team elected to wear bare the motto: “All out, all the time.”
Each individual has her own goals, in addition to team goals, which Crawford hopes her team can accomplish through the emphasized skills teamwork at the tail end of the season.
“We are going to continue to build our skills in every aspect,” Crawford said. “Quick offense, dominate at the net, improve every aspect of our game and stay confident but not over-confident.”
Despite a 25-4 overall record, nothing is guaranteed even though Sundance dropped only one set in winning the Class 2A East Regional Tournament over the weekend.
Sundance, the East No. 1 seed, opens the state tournamen against West No. 4 seed Lovell on Thursday.
Realistically, three wins are now all that separate the Bulldogs from the championship that has eluded the program for the last decade.