Volleyball players at the Skagway School are gearing up for their first tournament, coming next week in Haines on Oct. 16 and Oct. 17.

The season began on Sept. 6, though coach Aaron Schmidt said he’s had to share his seven student athletes with the cross-country team.

The crossover only lasted for a few weeks, however, as the cross-country season has since concluded.

“Usually it’s not quite so long, but volleyball started a bit early,” Schmidt said.

The small team size of seven does present some challenges, but Schmidt said they’ve been working those obstacles into positives.

“We’ve been having a blast, blasting good music, playing two-on-two, three-on-three,” Schmidt said. “There happen to be good volleyball lessons there too: covering a lot of the court, communicating, realizing just how much one person can do.”

Schmidt said he believes there’s a deeper game to sports than the game itself; lessons learned on the field of battle and building character are as important as winning a competition.

“To me its all just an opportunity to continue the hero’s journey, enlightenment is the goal, not just wins and losses,” Schmidt said.

Winning may not be everything, however Skagway’s team is starting this year with some advantages that may help it achieve victory.

Every player on the team is returning with experience, with two seniors, Mocha Lahrman and Kara Whitehead.

“This is my fourth year coaching, my first year was their freshmen year, and it’s neat to see them now as seniors,” Schmidt said. “But [I’m] very proud of them, they both work super hard and love the team and love the game.”

Several standouts are present in the lineup as well. Junior Madison Cox is the team’s setter this year.

In past seasons, Schmidt said he’s rotated all the players through all the positions, but has grown impressed with Cox’s abilities in a designated role.

“Madison has proven she’s willing to put in the effort,” Schmidt said. “A setter on a volleyball team is like a quarterback for football.

“The offense runs through them, and they may not be the one slamming it down, the equivalent of a touchdown, carrying it into the end zone, but boy you’d better believe they’re involved.”

Schmidt also highlighted Jennifer Hansen.

“And holy smokes, she’s a great athlete,” Schmidt said, referencing Hansen’s performance in the high jump at the State Track Meet in the spring.

Schmidt said Hansen has a great attitude, a willingness to work hard and “she can just get up and crush the ball.”

“Personally, that’s one thing I love about volleyball, is death from above, and she [Hansen] can bring that for sure,” Schmidt said.