Family atmosphere has Rampart volleyball on the verge of a resurgence

Rampart volleyball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

Anjelina Starck never stops smiling. When she moves on the court, when she sees the perfect set coming her way, or when she's returning the favor and offering up a volleyball for a teammate to slam into the ground; she does it all with a smile on her face.

Starck is one of several new varsity faces on the Rampart volleyball team. But unlike most, she's not a junior varsity player from a year ago who is just now cracking the lineup. Starck and her family moved to Colorado Springs from Las Vegas, Nev. where she played for Bishop Gorman High School.

She shined there and she's already shining for the Rams. College programs have noticed and it was Penn State who was fortunate enough to land a commitment from a player who figures to be one of the stars in Colorado for the next two seasons.

For those two seasons, she'll suit up for the Rams and couldn't be happier to find a program that quickly accepted her into its growing family environment.

"She's a really well rounded player," coach Nikki Bloemen said. "She can do just about everything. She can hit, she can set, she can pass, she can serve. I can put her in any role and she just does her job."

She's far from the only reason Rampart might be a sleeper team in Class 5A this season. The Rams have not cracked the Top 10 in the weekly volleyball rankings just yet. But this week they sit just outside and with the way they're playing, it's only a matter of time before they enter each match with a ranking next to their name.

Rampart volleyball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

"I think our actions will speak louder than our words," senior Grace Wilkinson said. "I think that once we start playing tougher competition and better teams, I think we'll perform really well and get in the top 10. I think the fire under everyone in this gym (to get there) is insane."

A senior on the team, Wilkinson has dedicated the last two seasons to helping Bloemen build a family atmosphere in the program. She was honored as a MaxPreps Marine Athlete of the Month last year and as part of the honor, she journeyed to Washington D.C. to observe the Marines up close.

As part of the deal, she was allowed to bring a mentor with all expenses paid. Her first - and only - call was to Bloemen.

With only four returning players from last year's varsity squad, Wilkinson shouldered a lot of the responsibility of getting the team to connect as well as embracing a player like Starck who figures to be a difference maker this season.

"Being a leader on this team like means a lot to me because it's so hard to get everyone to come together at some points," Wilkinson said.

Through just two matches, Wilkinson leads the Rams in serves received and digs. She doesn't mind doing the dirty work and letting the two outside hitters in Starck and Riley Simpson go after the kills.

And the way they're able to do that in games is by challenging each other in practice. In matches, they share the common goal of getting the win but while practicing each player is trying to up their game to force the rest of the girls to up theirs.

"When we're going against each other there's a little smack talk going there," Simpson said. "It's really fun and the competitive, but then in games we're all of course supporting each other."

And that comes from the family atmosphere that Bloeman has started building since she took the job in 2014. And while it's easy to say it all comes from her, the atmosphere doesn't happen if she doesn't have the players buying into it.

And when a player like Starck comes in and immediately feels at home, that atmosphere is reinforced.

"Everybody was so welcoming when I came and everybody was so nice," Starck said. "I like how everybody is so close and we have really good team chemistry."

Penn State will be in her future, but for the next two years Rampart is her volleyball family. And she wants to help that family get back in the state championship conversation.

Rampart volleyball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)