The most dominant team in Colorado high school sports could be called an outlier. Not because what it did was well outside the averages (which it was) but because the school and the team itself sits well outside the most populated areas in the state.
The Kit Carson Wildcats stormed through their competition en route to the 2017 Class 1A volleyball title. A quick look at their overall season record of 28-0 doesn't even begin to illustrate just how good this team was.
Not only did they win every match they stepped on the floor for, but they never even dropped a set.
And what made it all the more special for the team is that it was very much a family affair. The 2017 version of the Wildcats boasted four sets of sisters on the roster, each seeing significant time in each match.
That will likely be the case again in 2018. Haley and Faith Johnson, McKenzie and Mercede Smith, Josie and Tess Hornung, and Olivia and Reyna Isenbart will all try to bring the same level of dominance back this fall. And like most family functions, even the if the result ends well sometimes there can be conflict along the way.
"Sometimes they argue," coach Penny Isenbart said. "Sometimes there's another set of sisters that isn't a part (of the argument) or another sister will calm everyone down and tell them everything will be alright."
If there was any arguing in last year, cooler heads certainly prevailed. Like a stereotypical sibling relationship, they're allowed to fight with each other, but will stand together against someone from outside of the circle.
Having this mentality makes the Wildcats a very dangerous team once the regular season begins on Thursday.
"I think it really does," Tess Hornung said. "I think when we create that bond and then we take it with us in whatever we're doing, if anyone tries to tear us down and beat us, they won't be able to break us apart. Our bond is unstoppable."
Tess led Kit Carson in kills (248) and aces (46) in 2017 meaning that a solid portion of the offense returns this year.
McKenzie Smith and Reyna Isenbart also return to give the offense a boost. Both recorded over 140 kills meaning between the three players, over 62 percent of the offensive firepower is back.
Even though those numbers jump off the page, it's not the statistics that the Wildcats point to when it comes to the key reasons behind their success. It's more geared toward the community support and the closeness of the girls once they're on the roster.
Kit Carson lost two seniors in Paige Johnson and Micayla Isenbart, both of whom were a part of the siblings that helped make the team a champion.
If new faces step into those spots, there is hardly a worry as to whether or not they'll mesh with the veterans of the team.
"I think it's so easy for us to get along regardless of what age we are," McKenzie Smith said. "We're such a close community as it is so with these freshmen coming in, it's so easy to come together as a family."
Especially if they can repeat the historic level of dominance they had a year ago. The 78 sets that the Wildcats rattled off last year broke a 12-year-old state record held by Colorado Springs Christian School.
Setting or tying that record might be ideal, but the Wildcats' focus is more on a micro level. If they worry about what is happening directly in front of them, the long-term results will work themselves out.
"We've talked a lot about this, but it's a new season," Coach Isenbart said. "It's really a new team that's out there even though a lot of them have played together. We decided a few days ago that we're taking it one minute at a time which is what we did last year and it worked well for us."
The first minute that the Wildcats will focus on will come on Aug. 23 when they travel to Burlington to open the season.