The Mountain Ridge Sentinels had a successful season last year, finishing at the top of Region 3 and second in the 6A state tournament.

This year’s squad has big shoes to fill after graduating seven seniors after last year, but it’s a challenge that Mountain Ridge wants to take.

The Sentinels have started their season off on the right foot with back-to-back 3-0 victories in their season opener against Cedar Valley and their match against the Woods Cross Wildcats Tuesday night.

“Obviously we lost some pretty key players from last year’s second-place team, but we had a lot of girls returning that had some experience and younger girls that are now juniors and seniors who were part of that run last year,” said Mountain Ridge head coach Bryan Nicholson.

Tuesday night’s game was hard-fought for Mountain Ridge, who went back and forth with the Wildcats early. The Sentinels built up a 21-19 lead in the first set and got some separation for a 25-21 win thanks to some strong pressure on the net.

Many Sentinels shined in the victory, but junior Allie Grossenbach stood out with clutch kills and strong blocks on the front row.

While Mountain Ridge did win in straight sets, it gave up a few solid leads along the way. But the Sentinels stayed strong and only trailed once the whole night, 1-2 in the first set.

“Runs are part of the sport. Volleyball is a roller coaster of runs,” said Nicholson. “We understand we might have a couple of points in a row where we miss a pass, we shank a ball, we miss a serve, and so we kind of prepare for that in practice.

“We make sure to practice a lot of that situational stuff. We try to put them in those situations. They’re practicing it so that they’re ready for it and confident in games when that kind of stuff happens. They’ve been around the game long enough, they’ve been part of that team last year, so yeah, they are mentally tough. They don’t get rattled very easily.”

As the sets progressed, Mountain Ridge found its groove more and more, which led to larger leads and a quick victory.

However, Nicholson knows that this is just the beginning.

“I am super happy to start 2-0 to get things going,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, still have lots of things to work on, but they’re practicing really hard and they’re invested in what we’re trying to accomplish.”

But the players want to prove that last year was no fluke.

“Our main goal is defending what we accomplished last year, our region title and state runners-up,” Grossenbach said.

“We’re just going out there and not letting anyone take that from us and just proving everyone wrong.”