Just ahead of the fall of 2002, in a private high school in Kansas City, a group of volleyball players sensed that it could be a special season.

After all, previous teams had the talent, just not the postseason luck. That was the story of Archbishop O’Hara High School Volleyball.

“To tell you the truth, we always went into each season with the goal to get to state and then win it,” said Kimberly Robbins Grantham. “Winning was the only mindset we had, and the training for it started in the summer each year. We would, of course, focus on the current competition at the time, but everyone on the team knew that the ultimate goal was to win state!”

That season not only reached the pinnacle but kick-started one of the most impressive runs in state history. And it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct the 2002-2010 Era of Archbishop O’Hara High School Volleyball with the Class of 2023.

Coached by Lori Hanaway (MSHOF 2017), the team won seven state titles, which cover the years 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 – all in Class 3.

This for a program that prioritized team chemistry and hard work, right down the choice of season team mottos and offseason training.

To understand it, look back at the 1990s. O’Hara reached a number of district championship matches, only to be turned back.

“It was one of the key components of the program’s successful runs,” Coach Hanaway said. “They set the bar for incoming players every year with their hard work, dedication and pride. There were some outstanding players and teams that were so close but couldn’t quite win it all.”

In turn, those teams – and Hanaway – began to create a culture. Team mottos? Every season, there was a new one, and usually it was sort of cryptic, as only the team knew what it meant.

“They were motivational secrets, such as putting the area code of where the state championship was to remind us to keep our eye on the prize,” Lindsey Hanaway McKiddy said.

Said Annie Mahlberg, “I remember how important it was for us that the meanings of them stayed secret.”

Dinners at parents’ homes before home games – and breakfast ahead of weekend matches – also created more team bonding, as did unannounced trips to the bowling alley in place of regular practices.

Additionally, club volleyball in Kansas City grew, and the addition of the libero allowed other teammates to specialize in their strengths.

The 2002 team beat Willard in the finals and finished 35-5.

“The teams prior to my senior year were so good, but we always fell just short of making it to state,” Kimberly Grantham Robbins said. “So once we finally made and took first place it was unbelievable and all our hard work finally paid off!”

Four starters graduated from that team, but the 2003 team (34-4-1) still won it all, beating Pleasant Hill in three sets.

The 2004 team placed third and then, in 2005, O’Hara beat St. Francis Borgia in three sets in the championship match. O’Hara tailed by nine points in the third set.

Three seniors and three freshmen keyed the 2007 state championship season, which ended in a two-set sweep of Westminster Christian Academy.

Hanaway had returned after a year away, and that led to a run of four consecutive state titles.

The 2008 team handled Logan-Rogersville in two sets in the finals, and finished 33-4. The 2009 team finished 27-6-1 after beating Villa Duschesne in two sets, and it was a 34-4 season in 2010 after O’Hara beat Borgia in two sets. That 2010 team?  It didn’t drop a set at all at the state tournament.

Looking back, many players point to the fact that the machine-like coordination of practices. They were fun but intense.

“We had a great group of girls who were friends on and off the court,” Morgan Wyatt said. “We cheered each other on as if we were in a game! Lots of, ‘You got it, just one more!’”

Said Jordyn Wyatt, “Excellence was a requirement in the gym.”

The administration’s support factored in, too.

“The administration was extremely supportive,” Katie Glynn Supplee said. “They attended our games, ensured teachers worked with our schedules, and rallied the student body around us especially at state.”

Overall, what a run it was.

“This era reminds me how much hard work pays off,” Victoria Hurtt said. “There are so many lessons I learned from my teammates and coaches.”