Headed into the fifth and final set tied with Sussex Tech 2-2 on Thursday, Oct. 26, it finally dawned on Indian River High School senior middle hitter Sami Mumford: this could be the last volleyball set of her career.
“It just kind of hit me,” said Mumford of taking the court for what would end up being the final time in green and gold after getting some added motivation from the signature “Here we go!” call from her father, Todd Mumford, echoing throughout the gymnasium.
“It just really set in that this could be the last match I’ll ever play. I had to go all out because I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
After battling back from a 2-1 set deficit before taking the fourth set, 25-18, the Indians would go on to fall to the Ravens 15-13 in the fifth set and see their playoff hopes all but fade away.
But for seniors like Mumford and outside hitter Shelby Cannatelli, still, they have no regrets after leaving it “all on the court.”
“That was one of the best games that I’ve played all season,” said Cannatelli, who was back in the lineup after having to sit out most of October with a foot injury.
“I just had that fire inside. I wanted to go out with a bang. I’m not going to feel 100 percent tomorrow but the adrenaline got me going.”
“That was definitely one of our best games this year,” added Mumford. “I think everyone just knew coming in that we had to go all out. Everyone stepped it up.”
While the Indians fell short of their playoff goal, they did cap the season accomplishing one of their main goals since pre-season practices began in August, finishing at 8-7 and with the program’s first winning record since 2011.
For seniors like Mumford and Cannatelli, the win total is just one shy of wins in 2014 and 2015 combined, with the team finishing 3-12 in 2014 and 6-9 last season during head coach Jim Barnes’ first year at the helm.
“I’m definitely proud of the girls,” said Barnes, who has been aiming to “change the culture” of Indian River volleyball over the past two seasons.
“I don’t want to underestimate how far the girls have come, I just have really high expectations. I want to see the girls play better than they actually think they can play.”
Barnes went on the explain that he was encouraged to see not only the girls increase their win total, but close the deficit in losses against historically powerhouse programs like Cape Henlopen, Polytech, and Caesar Rodney.
The team’s improved competition in those matchups against larger programs showed throughout the season, and was highlighted by Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Tech after being swept by the Ravens just a year ago.
“It was competitive. It was a good game. We’re disappointed because we lost,” explained assistant coach Jay Clark. “Don’t take anything away from Sussex Tech, they won the match.”
“We’re obviously very equal teams,” added Barnes. “We stepped up that’s what I’m happy about. We’re right there - we’re starting to compete against teams that we didn’t compete against in the past.”
While Mumford and Cannatelli were understandably emotional after the team’s senior night and their final game on the courts, they were equally encouraged by what the future holds for a program on the up and up - leaving their legacy on a program that they very much helped build.
Not only will the team return six members of the varsity’s “Great Eight” in 2017, but the junior varsity managed a 9-5 record this season and the program should see added numbers with ten members of Selbyville Middle School’s 10-0 team set to graduate as eighth graders.
“I’m so proud of everybody. They’re going to be just as good if not better next year,” said Cannatelli. “I’m very excited that our season went as well as it did and I’m very excited for the future of IR volleyball.”
“Next year it’s going to be very competitive to make the varsity team but it’s going to be a good team,” added Mumford. “I can’t wait to come back and watch.”
IR season stats:
Aces: M. Johnson (35), S. Mumford (33), C. Collins (30), J. Bomhardt (25), J. Amezcua (20), S. Cannatelli (12), S. Johnson (12), S. Slebodnick (2), J. Jordan (1)
Kills: C. Collins (68), J. Bomhardt (63), S. Johnson (61), S. Mumford (61), S. Cannatelli (28), M. Johnson (24), J. Jordan (14), J. Amezcua (14), S. Slebodnick (2)
Assists: M. Johnson (205), S. Mumford (31), C. Collins (7), J. Amezcua (1), S. Johnson (1), J. Jordan (1)
Blocks: S. Mumford (23), J. Bomhardt (22), J. Jordan (14), C. Collins (11), M. Johnson (9), S. Johnson (9), S. Cannatelli (3)
Digs: J. Amezcua (132), C. Collins (106), S. Mumford (73), M. Johnson (56), J. Bomhardt (54), S. Cannatelli (45), S. Johnson (14), S. Slebodnick (4), J. Jordan (2)