UNION TWP. | When Belle Bravo walked into Wheeler’s gym for the start of volleyball practice, the freshman was unknown to her coach and new to her teammates.
Fast forward to late September and Bravo feels like a seasoned veteran as the Times No. 1 Bearcats look to put together another deep postseason run.
“Everything that we’ve done, from the moment we walked into open gym until the end of the regular season, it’s been getting us ready for the postseason,” Bravo said. “There is definitely some pressure on us, but its positive pressure.”
Bravo wasn’t feeling any pressure to make an impact on second-year coach Alisha Polite, mostly because Polite didn’t know what to expect with her freshmen class this season.
“I knew that I had some kids coming in from different middle schools,” Polite said. “I didn’t know where or their ability.”
Bravo and classmate Jordynn Parkes both earned starting roles as freshmen, playing alongside senior stars Shannon Doyle and Haley Plothow. Both girls caught Polite’s eye from the start of summer workouts and Bravo’s success as the starting setter hasn’t surprised anyone that has watched her handle her first season of varsity volleyball.
“She has played with a lot of poise,” Polite said. “Now it’s to the point where she’s been through a lot of games and a lot of situations. She’s had to grow up a little bit, but it’s been a good thing.”
Doyle and Plothow, along with six other seniors, have been a big part of the maturation process for Bravo. The seniors embraced their new teammates instead of treating the freshmen like outcasts, and Bravo's noticed.
“I have the best group of seniors you could ever ask for,” she said. “They’ve accepted me as a teammate, not as a freshman. They help me when I need help, pick me up when I need it and they’re nice to me at school. They’ve been great.”
Polite has preached team chemistry all season and with the Bearcats riding high with a 22-1 record, the lessons are getting through to her squad.
“I think the reason that we are the way we are this year is that we are a very well-rounded team,” Polite said. “We are a team from the seniors all the way to the freshmen. We play together.”