"Everyone on this year's team was on the team last year," Smith said. "They remember how last year felt, and they are hoping they don't have that feeling again. They know this is the end and they are playing all-out."
Of the nine seniors, three of them are program record-setting players. Middle hitter Hannah Shreve, a two-time All-State selection and West Virginia University recruit, set the school record for kills and blocks last year as a junior.
Also for the Patriots, setter Sydney Downey holds the school's all-time assists and aces record, while libero Sarah Arthur is the digs leader. All three are co-captains.
The other seniors include hitters Jordan Wittekind, Lexi Mourier, Casey Rollins, Eva Roberts and Leslie Gilmore, along with defensive specialist Brooke Deardorff.
There's another area team with high aspirations of going far in the State Tournament this weekend in Herbert Hoover.
The Huskies enter the Class AA field as one of the favorites. Hoover opens against Phillip Barbour (30-9) in the quarterfinals at the Civic Center at 1:30 p.m. today.
Hoover hopes to take the next step after getting a game off of and pushing eventual champion Oak Glen to the brink in the first round last season.
"We aren't just shooting for getting back here for the State Tournament, we raised the goal this year to win it," Hoover Coach Anita King said. "We feel talent-wise and skill-wise, we have a team that can compete with everyone else."
Hoover features one of the top players in the Class AA field in junior middle hitter Hannah King, who was named to the All-Tournament team at the State Tournament last season.