Sisters, heading to state volleyball championship, make their mark on the court
Friday morning the Middle Park Panthers step onto the volleyball court in Denver for the 3A State Championship tournament and while their hunt for a state title is pushed forward by both an individual and collective drive for success for two young ladies on the team, Harley and Sammy Phillips, the day will be about something more; one last chance to reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport with their sibling at their side.
The Phillips sisters are key players on Middle Park’s varsity volleyball squad, anchoring both offensive and defensive efforts throughout the year. Friday the two young ladies will compete with the rest of the Panther volleyball squad for a state championship.
“She is a senior,” junior Sammy Phillips said, referring to her older sister. “So it is good that we made it to state. This is our last time to play together.”
Last year when the Panthers went to the state tournament, and suffered a first round loss, Sammy was watching from the bench. An ACL injury as a freshman kept the younger Phillips sister off the court for the season. But things are different this year and Harley was happy to have her sister’s reliability out on the hardwood.
“I know she is a great volleyball player,” Harley said. “I know she will get a hit in when we need it. That is a relief. It is a cool feeling, to have a family member on the team that you can rely on.”
That reliance on one another, and their teammates, stems from a close personal relationship the two girls have, with each other and with the other lady Panthers.
“As we have gotten older we have gotten a lot closer,” Harley said. “We do everything together and volleyball brings us closer. We are closer because we play together. It is something more we can bond over.”
Both of the Phillips sisters have been playing volleyball for nearly a decade. Harley normally plays as an opposite hitter for the Panthers and was called on to fill in as setter for much of the season this year as team’s normal setter, Layne Neiberger, recovered from an Achilles injury. Sammy works as an outside hitter for the Panthers and is also a defensive specialist.
Sammy and Harley both said they are excited to compete in the state tournament but noted the added pressure they feel to bring home a championship before Harley, and a crop of key senior players, leaves the Middle Park squad behind.
“Since there are so many seniors on the team we just want to do the best we can for them,” Sammy said. “This is their last tournament.”
Middle Park will play in the first match of the 3A State Volleyball Championships Friday morning at the Denver Coliseum when they take on the Greeley charter school University. The Panthers are currently the number nine seed for the tournament while their first round opponents, the Bulldogs, are the fourth seed. Tournament action is set to kick off at 8 a.m.
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