Sometimes, the best coaching move Carol Benedict makes is stepping back in the huddle and letting her players decide on the play out of the timeout.
Her occasional silence has spoken volumes on the newfound success of Manitou Springs' volleyball program.
"I don't want my players afraid to speak up," said Benedict, whose undefeated Mustangs (23-0) are 43-7 over her two-year tenure. "We have very smart players. We are a team and every voice is important to us. Every girl from varsity to our C-team has to help us succeed."
And they all have. Friday, No. 3 Manitou Springs hosts 3A Region 3.
During the regular season, sophomore stars Nicole Mack and Katie McKiel led with a combined 575 kills, while back-and-fourth JV-varsity players like Shelby Megyeri have added a spark off the bench in the Mustangs' quest for a 3A state title.
This mix-and-match of talent hasn't been an accident, either. Wherever Benedict has coached in her more than 20 years of high school - from Fountain-Fort Carson to Hanover - she's combined varsity, JV and C-team in practice in hopes for continuity and quick progression from her young players.
"We will need our young girls down the road and we will need them during the season," said Benedict, whose team wasn't supposed to have a school-best season after losing a handful of senior starters from the 2012 team (20-7). "I know it makes our JV team better scrimmaging with varsity and our C-team better scrimmaging JV. . I think our JV team could beat just about anyone in the (3A Tri-Peaks) league."
Megyeri, a freshman who made the varsity roster for this postseason, is one of those young players Benedict knows may have to come up big sooner than later. The younger sister of former high school basketball stars Jesse and Chase Megyeri, said she has tried to soak everything up her first season in preparation for this opportunity.
"I want to help anywhere I can," said Megyeri, who mostly played on JV (14-4) this season. "I think we're all like that on this team. As for me, I have gotten so much better in such a short time because great players like Nicole and Katie, who have really taken time out to help me get better at my game. It's been awesome. Playing with better players makes you better. Like, during practice when the JV and varsity scrimmaged, it's just so awesome to see what they do and put that into your own game. We (JV) got better as the season went and we almost even have taken a set from them - we got close."
But Manitou Springs won't settle for getting close anymore. The Mustangs, who were curiously ranked behind an Eaton team they beat earlier in the season, as well as Valley, which boasts five losses, have a championship-or-bust mentality.
"Yeah, we definitely think we should be higher, but we are fine with it. It's about who is top at the end and that's where we need to be," McKiel said. "We are going to take it one step at a time until we get there."
It won't be easy, however, especially with a giant 23-0 target on their back. But with each timeout, Benedict likes her team's chances.
"If one of them sees something we can exploit I want to listen to it," Benedict said. "We will take it one day at a time as a team. We're all in this together."
Manitou Springs hosts Grand Valley and Pagosa Springs in its region on Friday.