YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Winning league and Far East tournament titles in boys and girls volleyball did much more than help fill Taegu American’s trophy case.
Players and coaches agree the fall sports season success changed the atmosphere at the school. It definitely has made the Warriors basketball teams optimistic about February’s Class A tournaments. Even just attending class is easier, players say.
“It did a lot” for school morale, said boys volleyball and basketball coach Chance Wilson, noting the title banners remain on display in front of the school. “The volleyball success made them realize they can be winners in basketball this year, too.”
It’s a far different outlook for a school that had not won a Far East title since 1990. A series of near misses inspired a gallows-humor title: "The Taegu Curse," said senior volleyball and basketball player Kelli Cox. “Always coming in third."
Then the girls volleyball team won the Class A title, and the boys team took its first-ever Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
“Once the guys won KAIAC and we won Far East, we realized it was possible,” said fellow senior and volleyball tournament MVP Lynnette Grant.
Said senior Duri Balat, basketball center and KAIAC volleyball tournament MVP: “The school … was more fun. And it’s still there. There’s nothing like winning teams to unify a school.”
Many volleyball players on the boys and girls teams also play basketball and have carried the momentum through the early part of the season.
Even those who didn’t play volleyball sensed a new dawn for Warriors basketball .
“It makes me feel like, ‘Wow! I’m on a winning team,’” said girls senior point guard Tamara “Tank” Hancock. “They did it; now, I can, too.”
It’s also injected life into fans. Former sparse crowds have been replaced by throngs of up to 300.
Said Cox: “People always love watching a winning team.”
Wilson and girls coach Michelle Chandler said they’ve noticed the changed atmosphere, players’ attitudes and work ethic.
“The kids are more positive and enthusiastic,” said Chandler. “They want to work harder and they expect themselves to win.”
Paced by the “Big Three” of Grant (22.4 points, 9.6 rebounds), Hancock (14 points, 5.2 assists, 4.6 steals) and Cox (9.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5 steals), the Warriors’ only loss in high school play was 46-45 to Seoul American on Dec. 16.
“We always had the talent,” Cox said. “The confidence just allows us to use it.”