Two years ago, before his first season with the team, Bolivar High School volleyball coach Tony Phelps made a prediction.
Pointing to a lone 1990s era district championship banner hanging in the high school gym, Phelps, who has decades of coaching experience outside Missouri, said he’d love to help the team write a new chapter and place a new entry on the banner during his tenure.
“I’d love to help some of the girls on this team put another district title on the wall,” he said.
Now in Phelps’ second year in Polk County, the Lady Liberators are on their way to that dream and making history every game this fall.
As of Monday, Oct. 5, Bolivar is 10-2-2, with already more wins on the schedule than the team compiled in its entire 2018 season, which it finished 4-23-3.
Last year, Bolivar finished just under .500 on the season at 15-17-1.
It was the start of a turnaround engineered by Phelps and assistant coach Natasha Hamlet, a 10-veteran on the court. This year, the team also added assistant coach Kyle Smith.
Earlier this season, Phelps told the BH-FP success would have to come from the team continuing to buy into itself.
The Lady Liberators are a family, he said.
“I try to instill that lesson in them every chance I get,” he said. “We have to look out for each other on the court and off the court.”
Five seniors feature on Bolivar’s roster — Hallie Tucker, Emma Turner, Emma Kirklin, Trinity Williamson and Emily Hogan.
This year, the program has also already hit several benchmarks to indicate its continued improvement.
In two matches against Stockton, a team that beat Bolivar last year, the Lady Liberators won 3-1 on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and played to a 1-1 tie Saturday, Sept. 19.
Bolivar faces a four-team district tournament this year featuring Webb City, Nevada and Carl Junction.
The Lady Liberators own the second-best record, with Webb City in first at 15-4-1.
Bolivar faces Glendale at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in Bolivar.
Ahead of its home tournament, Pleasant Hope High School volleyball, too, is compiling a formidable record.
The Lady Pirates are 10-5-2 on the year.
Pleasant Hope will host the Pleasant Hope Dig Pink invitational Saturday, Oct. 10.
As the season draws to a close, Pleasant Hope will also hope to back up its success last year, when the Lady Pirates claimed the most season wins in school history.
This year, though, the Lady Pirates could earn a different type of honor.
While last year, the team was blanked 2-0 by Stockton in the first round of its district tournament, the 2020 Lady Pirates are one of the top teams in Class 2 District 11.
Only 12-1 Miller owns a better record, while 9-9-1 Strafford is a close third.
Pleasant Hope next faces Ash Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in Pleasant Hope.