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Mustangs surprise many by reaching Elite 8

With only three regular contributors returning, not many people believed in the 2009 Isabella volleyball team.

Not even some of the players on the team.

There are plenty of believers now: those that ranked the Mustangs the No. 9 team in Class 2A at the end of the regular season, the victims of the 29 wins Isabella has this year, and the more than 50 members of the Isabella community that will load a bus (or two, if necessary) for the trip to the Pelham Civic Complex at 9:30 Wednesday morning to watch their team take on Sand Rock in the first round of the Elite Eight state volleyball tournament.

“Volleyball excitement is sweeping the school—these girls deserve that recognition,” said coach Glen Graham, smiling in part because he might have been the only person who thought the team could make it this far.

Graham would know the look of an Elite Eight-worthy team because this is the seventh such squad he’s had in his 12 years as coach.

But Graham also knows this team is a tournament underdog because of its lack of tournament experience—the Mustangs’ last trip was in 2006.

Three current players—seniors Marlee Hayes and Kimi Jones and junior Amber Wyatt—were on the last squad that went to Pelham.

“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think we would make it this far. It makes your heart beat a little faster,” Jones said about the environment that awaits the team, which left Wednesday and was staying overnight in the area.

But Jones also said she was confident her teammates would be able to handle the pressure and the competition.

No one else might think so, but these Mustangs have been proving people wrong all year.