Amanda Wellman experienced heartbreak as a freshman and sophomore in the Class 1A state girls volleyball tournament.
But Lake Mead’s spark-plug outside hitter salvaged a giant positive from the defeats.
“The feeling of losing is more motivating than winning,” said Wellman, now a senior. “That our team had gone there and been through the losing stage, we all wanted to win so bad.
“We felt the heartbreak of our hard work going down the drain.”
The Eagles rode the motivation from consecutive 1A state semifinal exits to the first state championship in program history last year. All but two players returned, and Lake Mead figures to be in the mix for a repeat title.
The Eagles (21-4, 6-0 1A Southern League) have won 12 straight matches, and no one has been more crucial than Wellman.
“She puts everything on the court — her heart, her soul, everything,” senior middle hitter Sam Herman said. “And you see it every time she plays.”
Wellman leads the state with 159 aces, according to MaxPreps.com. She also leads the Eagles in digs (142) and is second in kills (149).
“Her strengths are definitely in that back row: serving, passing, digging,” Lake Mead coach Diana Lewis said. “She’s an amazing defensive player.”
But the 5-foot-8-inch Wellman’s impact goes beyond her court instincts and quick feet. She also has emerged as the Eagles’ unquestioned leader.
“She’ll lift you up when you’re down,” senior setter Jocelyn Cox said. “She’s a great person to keep you up. Even if she’s down, she’ll make sure that we’re all up and playing as a team.”
It’s the kind of leader Lewis, in her ninth season at Lake Mead, had been seeking for years.
“She is definitely the one that everyone looks up to,” Lewis said. “She’s the one who controls everything on that court.
“She’s the one that’s communicating, ‘I’ve got short, you’ve got long, ball’s up.’ I’ve been looking for that captain for years, and she’s definitely shown that she’s the one.”
While Wellman is Lake Mead’s emotional core, the Eagles also rely heavily on junior outside hitter and reigning league Most Valuable Player Ashley Newton (228 kills), Herman (75 kills) and Cox (430 assists).
Wellman said the Eagles have benefited from playing together since middle school.
“We already had team unity coming into my freshman year all the way up to now, so I think that’s really helped this team stay together tight,” she said. “Once you have a team that’s together off the court, you’re going to have a strong team altogether.”
Lewis said one of the Eagles’ challenges is to fight complacency, which is why at the end of some practices she’ll put 70 seconds on the clock in which players must run baseline to baseline 10 times.
“That actually is a discipline if you miss a game-point serve,” Lewis said. “If they’re not tough enough to get through it, the whole team runs again.”
The Eagles have kept their intensity high lately, sweeping their past 12 matches.
A mural in Lake Mead’s gym dubbed the “Eagles Wall of Fame” lists each of the school’s state championships and eight distinguished athletes from various sports.
Lewis said Wellman, also a standout catcher in softball, should eventually make it nine.
“She’s one that all the kids look up to, even down to our younger programs,” Lewis said. “They all know who Amanda Wellman is.”