WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - The ZIVA 18's National team is the first team in program history to make it to Nationals. The team is made up of 10 girls all from the Texoma area, some of them have been playing together for 5 years.
"It was amazing, especially because half of our team has been trying to qualify since we were 12 years old," said co-captain Lindsey Dodson. "So, to finally do it in our last year to combine with the seniors is good."
"It took a while to set in, to be honest," said co-captain Danielle Okeke. "It was really surreal. I mean it was just really, really amazing."
The team won one of the biggest tournaments in Texas to qualify for Nationals.
"It was just incredible, they just clicked from the start to the end," said head coach Aerielle Edwards. "And I mean it was like, they finally wanted it and they finally knew they had a chance to go to Nationals. They had to win the whole thing in order to go. So it was kind of the odds were against them. Other divisions had more bids, but this one you had to win the whole thing. And from the get-go, we sat down and had a talk about trusting each other to do their jobs. And basically they went in, and they trusted each other, and they came out with the win."
At Nationals in Anaheim, California, the ZIVA 18's represented well. The girls made it all the way to the championship game and even beat the number one-seeded team, even if the girls didn't realize it at the time.
"Beforehand, our coach didn't even tell us that they were the number one seed," explained Dodson. "But we kind of just took it one game at a time and when we made it to the championship we were all kind of surprised. But we gained confidence so we went in strong."
"I didn't even know they were ranked first; I don't know if many people did," said Okeke. "So it was just another game that we had to work hard through."
"I had no idea," said coach Edwards. "Prep Volleyball came to me and was like, 'Did you know you beat the number-one seed?'
"And I was like, 'Whoa, they were the number one seed?' Like I had no idea. We didn't even talk about it after we won, so we didn't know until they got second."
The girls believe the success they had this season will trickle down to the younger girls in ZIVA and show them what they can do if they put in the work.
"I think it might inspire them to know that anyone can make it," Okeke said. "You know we made it, it's just that it will take a lot of hard work. You know it's not easy by any means but it's definitely possible."
"I think every year ZIVA just keeps growing, and I think it just attracts more girls in," Dodson said. "And I think by the time I leave there will be such a high bar set, I think with the girls we have now, it's just going to be great.
"They are like complete role models," Edwards explained. "Like, I coach the 13's. They are 13 now but they were 12 last year and that's where they started, so them seeing them at the 18 level, going on and going to nationals and everything like that, it's like they actually think their dreams can come true."
For more information, visit www.zivavolleyball.com