LYONS — Just over four hours after the CHSAANow.com preseason volleyball rankings came out, No. 3 Lyons showed up to the gym for its first mandatory practice.
"We can't assume that we have anything," Lyons coach Mason Johnson said. "Keeping our heads down and working hard is going to be the key for us this year."
Johnson laid out his expectations with the Lions gathered around him. He preached hustle, attentiveness, positivity and respect.
"If there's one thing that I can send them away with that I feel good about is good things happen when you work hard," Johnson said.
Johnson told the girls they should be active participants — they should never be standing around doing nothing.
"I think being third is going to make us all work harder because we want it more," Senior Sarah Stevelinck said. "Number one, I think Dayspring Christian is a little comfortable. They're in their seat, they know they've got it. Knowing that we're behind them, we're going to want it more."
After the serious tone, Johnson had to take a step back to remind his team of his excitement for the year. He told the Lions that everyone on the team is family.
The first day was about building a foundation and showing the players the basics of what they will be doing and how they're going to do it.
Johnson added that if his players bring a lot of intensity to the beginning of practice, then it'll carry through to the end. He wants his players to be a part of the solution and not the problem by showing up ready to work.
"I'm going into this year without setting any formal expectations," Johnson said. "I want to focus on working hard in practice and playing hard in all of our games. If good things happen with our program, it's because we worked hard here."
After a 20-7 season, Lyons did not make it out of pool play in the 2016 Class 2A tournament.
A few key returning players are Stevelinck, Taylor Mcguire and Kylen Christiansen.
Stevelinck, who recorded 776 digs and 112 aces as a junior last year, was a vocal leader throughout practice.
"When I was young, my coaches always said that if you're loud, people will notice you," Stevelinck said. "I like being able to help my team and being vocal is a way I can do that. Any way that I can bring more energy or help my team even more, that's what I want to do. And if doing that is what I need to do, then I'll do that all year long."
Mcguire had 322 kills with a 36.8 kill percentage and Christiansen had 434 assists.
"My expectation is that we make state," Stevelinck said with excitement. "This is probably one of the most talented teams I've played with in my life. I really think we have an excellent shot at at least getting to that state championship."
She caught herself and said she wanted to take it one step at a time.
"I wanna start with districts," Stevelinck said as she talked about getting home court for regionals. "I want to take districts this year."
Although they were unable to have the full team on the first day of practice, Johnson thinks the work ethic is there.
"I want to instill in all of them a work ethic that they can in turn reflect on outside of volleyball and that it paid off," Johnson said. "You get out what you put into it."