Cape Henlopen volleyball team no longer satisfied with just making tournament

Cape players celebrate during the team’s win over Dover High earlier this month (Delaware State News/Ben Heck).

LEWES — The standard has been set for Cape Henlopen High’s volleyball program.

Just a year ago, Cape had earned its first DIAA volleyball state tournament victory.

The Vikings’ first-round tourney win over Dover High, in five sets, brought new expectations for the program.

So, although Cape’s 9-6 campaign this season marks the team’s fifth consecutive tourney berth and was enough to grab a first-round bye for the first time in program history, coach Tyler Coupe no longer wants to just settle for making the tournament.

The players don’t want to settle, either.

While Coupe mentioned the first-round bye being a huge accomplishment, it wasn’t necessarily a goal for the program. The fifth-year coach would like to see the bye simply set the girls up for a deeper run.

“I told the girls at the end of last year, ‘this is the new standard you’ve set for yourselves, and this is the standard I’m going to hold you accountable for,’” said Coupe. “Making the tournament is not good enough anymore, it needs to be a progression of moving on. This definitely sets us up in the right direction.”

The eighth-seeded Vikings will play its second round match at 7 p.m. Saturday at Newark Charter.

Cape will face the winner of Thursday night’s first-round match between 24th-seeded Wilmington Friends School and ninth-seeded Smyrna High.

Two of Cape’s four captains — senior Abigail Derrickson and junior Breahna Kusen — echoed Coupe’s sentiments during Tuesday’s practice.
Both pointed out that the progression of the program has been evident over the last few seasons, but the desire to continue improving is still there.

“I think once we got that first win last year it was kind of like, ‘OK, we know we’re capable of this, there’s no reason we can’t continue to push ourselves to get even further,’ ” said Derrickson. “We can’t get complacent, just getting to the tournament is not good enough anymore and just getting past the first round isn’t good enough anymore.”

“The program has definitely improved each year,” added Kusen. “We just seem to get closer together as one unit. Working together 14 as one is a lot better than working individually.”

Seniors Taylor Iacona and Teaghan Van Brunt join Derrickson and Kusen as the team’s four captains. Each has brought something different to the table this season.

Simran Patel and Alyssa Whaley round out Cape’s group of five seniors.

“I picked each of them as captains for a particular reason,” Coupe said. “This year they each have an assigned task. For some, it’s to be the person who holds people accountable and to kind of call out their teammates in a positive manner and for others it’s a physical leader. They each have their own role within the captainship.”

All six of Cape’s losses have come against teams in the tournament — Delmarva Christian School, Indian River High, Newark Charter School, Smyrna, St. Elizabeth High and Conrad School.

After beginning the season 1-4, the Vikings won eight of nine matches before dropping their finale to Conrad Oct. 25.

Coupe purposely scheduled a difficult slate to challenge his team and help them take that next step.

“It benefits to lose if you’re going against a quality team where you can learn something,” he said. “Getting a 3-0 win, and whooping them, is not always beneficial. You might get everyone in, but are you challenging yourself as a team? Are you learning anything about yourself as a team? I think our schedule this year really allowed us to grow and allowed us to figure out what we needed to work on.”

Though the Vikingss aren’t used to having a break in the first round, the intense practices this week have kept them focused on improving every day heading into the weekend.

“Right now we’re just taking it day by day, working on getting that one percent better that coach always tells us about,” said Kusen. “Instead of focusing on Saturday, we’re just thinking, day by day, about how we can get better.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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