Inspiration can come in a number of forms for a sports team, and for the Cody girls volleyball team this season, some of it came from a blockbuster sequel to an iconic ’80s movie that ironically featured a legendary volleyball sequence famous for the unnecessary flexing of muscles and Tom Cruise somehow capable of a 40-inch vertical in the sand and rack up kill after kill.
“We took them to ‘Top Gun’ over the summer and I just thought it would be fun to come up with our own call signs,” coach Nicole Gwynn said. “We put them into groups and they got to know each other within those groups and then assign each other a call sign.”
While Maverick, Goose, Wolfman and Ice Man battled it out in an intense beach volleyball game in the original “Top Gun,” it’s now Butter, Bubbles, Five Star and Hopper showing their stuff on the Wyoming 4A volleyball scene.
“My call sign is Toaster because I always burn myself when I’m out in the sun,” senior Reece Niemann said. “Molly (Hays) is Five Star and that pretty much explains itself. Ava Meier’s is Web because she has webbed toes, which I think is pretty cool.”
The calls signs came about in a couple of different ways.
“The team kind of came up with Butter for me I guess,” senior Kennedi Niemann said. “We came up with some names individually as well, just call signs that kind of describe us. I’d like to think it’s because I play smooth like butter, but when I was a kid I used to go to the fridge, grab butter and eat it under the table.”
It’s probably a little more than call signs that have led to an outstanding fall for the Fillies, finishing the regular season 21-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play, plus a dynamic showing in the regional tournament over the weekend to earn the No. 2 seed out of the West.
A little hard work and a strong bond have helped as well as they head to the state tournament this week with state title aspirations.
“Freshman year I probably should have gotten cut,” said senior standout Alora Nunn, call sign Smiley. “But they didn’t cut anybody that year so I got lucky. From there I just kind of worked super hard and now I’m here.”
It happened to take a little hard work and some creative bonding in “Top Gun: Maverick” for that crack team to come together as well, opting for dogfight football on the beach instead of volleyball for the sequel.
“I think we realized that volleyball is lot more than just a game,” said Meier aka Web, whose hair whipping also led the call sign Whiplash. “It’s more of coming together as a team. We have all been such good friends for so long. I think we had that relationship early on and it has really helped.”
A newcomer has helped lead the Fillies to success this season as well, and for junior transfer Kenzie Ratcliff, aka Mowgli, she didn’t have to look too far for a proper nickname.
“I was a crazy kid and I used to climb on everything all of the time,” Ratcliff said. “So my parents called me Mowgli, like from ‘The Jungle Book.’ They still do.”
Now her climbing is a little more of the airborne variety as she and a number of other Fillies have crushed the vast majority of the competition at the net en route to a memorable season.
“What attracted me to this coaching job in the first place was not just these girls’ abilities, but just how close they are and the bonds that they have,” Gwynn said. “There is just something special about this group that you can’t quite put your finger on, but they are the kind of people you just want to be around forever.”
And who wouldn’t want to be around someone with a call sign like Peanut?
“When I was little, I hated peanut butter,” senior Victory Buck said. “My mom would kind of force me to eat it for the protein, but I would like scrape it under the table instead of eat it.”
The ruse didn’t last forever.
“One day my cousin stuck her hand underneath the table and basically ratted me out,” she laughed. “I still don’t like peanut butter.”
The peanut butter ploy didn’t last as long as she would have liked, and neither has the high school volleyball career for any of the seniors as they won their final game at home on Oct. 22.
It was just another humble conference win that turned into a tearful farewell for a multi-talented group of athletes.
“It’s very emotional,” Nunn said. “I’m just sad that it’s over.”
Meier understood the significance as well.
“It’s awful, but awful in a good way,” she said. “It’s an emotional game and emotional moment and we are all kind of feeling it right now.”