The second-year coach remembers telling the team that she had a feeling that this season was going to be a good one.
It certainly has.
The Lady Wolverines (34-7) will play for the Class A state title Saturday when they face Landmark Christian (40-14) at Marietta High School.
Walker is no stranger to the state playoffs in volleyball. It has been represented in postseason in each of the last nine seasons, reaching as far as the semifinals in 2005 and ’06.
But for this particular group of players, reaching the state finals has been in the plans all along.
“You can just feel the chemistry between them,” Arndt said. “They have said all season that they want to play for a championship on Nov. 3. They have given themselves a chance to do that. And they believe in themselves and feel that they can accomplish that and win a state championship.”
When Arndt succeeded Dan Clotfelter as Walker’s coach last year, she tried to get the players to focus on a team approach, which included respecting one another and communicating well. They all adopted those philosophies — something Arndt now credits for the Lady Wolverines’ success.
“They honestly believe in each other and want the best — both on and off the court — for each other,” Arndt said. “They are constantly communicating with each other on the court. They know where everyone is on the court and where and how to help each other to try to make each other better.
“Every time we are on the court in practice, we push each other in a positive way that makes it fun, yet we’re challenging each other every time we play both in practice and in matches. We have gotten a lot better because of that.”
Arndt said some of the Lady Wolverines biggest lessons have come in their seven losses. Each loss was to a team from a larger classification — three times to Pope, twice to Greater Atlanta Christian and once each to Blessed Trinity and Lassiter.
“All seven losses, we walked away saying that we had to have a faster transition, have to have a faster offense, have to serve more aggressively,” Arndt said. “And we put those lessons in place, and that’s where we are now.”
One opponent Walker did not fall to was Landmark.
The teams that will rematch Saturday met in late August, with the Lady Wolverines winning in straight sets, 25-23, 25-22. They also scrimmaged with one another.
Those meetings gave Walker’s players a taste of what is to come.
“We know they can attack the ball,” said Arndt, who said her team will counter by trying to keep the Lady War Eagles’ offense from finding its rhythm. “We have really stressed a faster pace and staying aggressive ourselves so that we can throw the other team off their offense.”
Anrdt pointed out Landmark’s strong outside hitter, a strong right-side attack and its solid defense.
“We need to stay aggressive and not get careful,” she said. “We need to be patient and wait for when we can take a point.”
The Lady Wolverines, who start three sophomores, rely on the leadership of their seniors. Brielle Bowerman and Paige Warner captain the team and keep everyone on an even keel with a consistent pre-match routine.
“They keep themselves emotionally in check very, very well, and that’s thanks to the senior leadership,” Arndt said.
In Saturday’s match, Walker will rely on its experience to read the Landmark players, react to the Lady War Eagles’ plays and try to put themselves in the right position on each play.
“They have worked all season to get to this point,” Arndt said. “They are very excited. They can’t wait.”