TWIN FALLS — There were summer days, as Lighthouse Christian volleyball players recount, where it was hotter inside the Lions’ practice facility than it was outside, when the bruises caused from dives on a thin rubber court became extensions of their blue uniforms.
Those conditions welded championship mettle and two state trophies, figuratively building the foundation of the Lions Den as they were literally practicing on it.
Those days haven’t been forgotten, but they won’t be missed.
Now they wield more than the vicious spikes of its front-court, but a home court advantage.
Tuesday night against Camas County, the floor sparkled and the home crowd roared from the bottom bleacher to the second story concourse, an elegant and intimate design, vertical enough that opponents may feel like they’re being closed in on, enveloped and consumed.
The Lions Den.
Opponents thought they were scary when they played their home games at Jerome Middle School.
“Tonight was probably as much as our crowd has ever cheered,” said senior Parris Gomez.” It’s a great reward.”
Incredibly, the new facility, which includes one of the best weight rooms at the 1A level, is completely funded, as $750,000 in community donations have allowed the school to complete Phase 1, with the second and third phases adding science labs and classrooms to the facility.
“It’s unreal, shows the power of God,” athletic director Darren Van Hofwegen said. “We truly believe with God all things are possible.”
Graduated Lions congratulated coach Tobie Helman after her team made efficient work of the Mushers, 25-14, 25-13, 25-20.
The court won’t soften the program; its callouses remain.
“Part of what made us who we were is we were constantly battling adversity,” Helman said. “We never had a home game, a lot of this is making sure thing girls are staying in touch with their past, who they are and embracing the future. We’re still focusing on this.”
While fundraising took just six months, the dream’s inception was much older.
“I tell (the alumni) all the time when they’re sad they didn’t get to play in the gym, that this is like the day we’ve dreamed of since I came here 11 years ago,” Helman said. “We are going to have a gym some day. If they didn’t work as hard as they did, going through what they went through, if they hadn’t paved the way. ... They bought into my dream of building this program, which became their dream, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
Said senior Morgan East: “It’s nice, especially from what we came from. It really inspired us to push even harder.”
Said senior Anna Pridey: “Really exhilarating having the crowd there for us. It’s a lot of fun to play here. It looks great in here. The court is absolutely beautiful. Our old court was not very good at all, messy and everything. It gives us a perspective that a lot of teams don’t have.”
Jackie van Vliet led the way with 12 kills and four blocks. Gomez had eight digs. Freshman Sabrina de Jong had 25 assists