Coach Steph Wilcox sees it at practice and in matches.
Her Lincoln High volleyball team has a little more spring to its step, and a lot more energy.
One player may deliver a big kill and receive a friendly little shove from a teammate.
"I think that's part of it, they just have a lot of fun together and they love to see each other succeed," Wilcox said.
Wilcox is in her fourth season as Lincoln High's head coach and the Links have gotten better each year. Last year's team was 15-14, marking the first time in a long time that LHS finished with a winning record.
With a veteran group of seniors, led by outside hitter Tyrah Woods, Lincoln High is on pace for a bigger season. The Links are 10-3 and are a Class A ratings contender. There was a long stretch where Lincoln High struggled to come close to 10 wins in a season.
The process has taken a few years, and that's why the Links are fully embracing this year's theme.
"Progress over perfection."
"Every time we try something, we grow and we get better and we're just doing what coaches are telling us to do, and we're trying lots of new things every day and having fun together," senior setter and two-year captain Paige Christophersen said.
Last season served as a stepping stone for the Links. They began to beat teams they were not beating in previous seasons, and players began understanding that they can compete with strong teams.
Their season came to a close following a five-set loss to Omaha Westside in a district match, but that didn't take away from the progress made.
"A lot of it I think really was just knowing that they could do it and they carried that over into (this) season ... having a little more confidence, having a little more pep in your step," Wilcox said.
And though the Links dropped two matches last weekend (to 12-4 Fremont and 12-2 Bellevue West), they were able to take away a few more lessons, especially following a 25-15, 26-24 loss to the No. 5 Thunderbirds.
"I think that was a testament to how they played against Bellevue West on Friday night," Wilcox added. "Just really pushing them to the limit and playing tough against them."
With fellow seniors Woods (outside/middle), Harper Case (defensive specialist), Ariana Hoagland (middle) and Bayla Young (defensive specialist) back after playing a lot of sets in previous seasons, Christophersen said she was excited to see the Links take another step after winning 12 matches in 2018, 13 in 2019 and 15 last year.
"The seniors in particular ... we were all very excited coming into the summer in the offseason, to do our team camps and do workouts and play in the Greater Nebraska League," Christophersen said. "We were just super-excited to come together because obviously it's our last year and we want to leave a legacy at Lincoln High, which I feel like we have been doing these past couple of years."
The offseason work also included the coaches.
"We got coaches that are working at different clubs and learning from different coaches and going to different camps around the summer, trying to bring some of the ideas and different ideas to the program," Wilcox said. "Keep advancing and keep moving forward."
That's what the Links intend to do.
Woods is currently sidelined by injury, but other players like juniors Nicole Haywood, a Lincoln East transfer, and Khami Itzen. With an experience team, the coaches have been able to make some adjustments and throw together new defensive and offensive game plans.
It's all progress for a Links program eager to push and join the Class A powers.
"State is always the ultimate goal for almost anyone, but again, it's just the little things," Wilcox said. "There's teams that we haven't been able to take sets from or beat them. Really pushing hard to make sure that we're giving everything we can."
Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.