FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep volleyball team enters a new year with raised expectations.
In the past seven seasons, head coach Rainy Crisp has led her Lady Eagles squad deep into the postseason.
Prep has made it to at least the state quarterfinals every year since 2007, but one thing has eluded the team — the school's first state title in the sport.
With eight varsity players returning this season, Crisp believes this is the year the Lady Eagles can finally break through.
"I think in the past, we've settled for making it to state instead of having the goal to win it," Crisp said. "We really want to take our program to the next level."
During the run of success, Crisp led Prep to the state finals in 2007 and 2008, falling short to Texico on both occasions. But in more recent years, the Lady Eagles have struggled to put back-to-back matches together at state, falling in the quarterfinals three of the last four seasons.
Crisp said her focus early in the season will be driving home the point that any loss is unacceptable.
"I'm pushing more and trying to get them to that mentality," she said. "Every game is a state game. We can't except any loss."
The Lady Eagles have most of their squad back from 2013, but the team still remains a relatively young one with just three seniors.
Senior setter Keona Leano, who Crisp said has developed into a leader on the team, and defensive specialist Michelle Lee will play important roles in bringing along the younger players.
On the front line, Prep will rely on two juniors, Jasmine Coleman and Lashauntai Adams, who have both played well in the teams' opening victories against Navajo Pine and Shiprock.
"We have a great group coming back," Crisp said. "This year is a whole new season. This year, we're determined. We have a good solid team that can do big things. The key will just be peaking at the right time."