When the Spring Valley Vallettes' 2017-18 competition season ended with an eighth-place finish in jazz and a ninth-place finish in pom at regionals, the team was disappointed in how the judges perceived their dances, but that same disappointment did not carry over to their overall thoughts on the year.

"I think it was a really great season, but it was kind of a let down to not go on to state as a team," said co-head coach Kelsey Carr. "When we looked back on the season, we thought we did so well, and overall, there wasn't any disappointment."

Carr said the team came off of the floor at regionals filled with joy for how they had performed, but the judges felt differently.

"It's hard to reconcile when you do get first or second at a competition and then you don't qualify for state with those same dances," co-head coach Tiffany Schultz added. "We only made positive gains, but I think a lot of it just depends on the day and the order you are in the lineup and who's watching you. You just really can't ever know with dance."

Aside from rolling with the punches when it comes to receiving feedback from judges, the Cardinals have also had to adjust to welcoming in new dancers as their team continues to grow. Last year's team featured eight dancers, while this year's team is up to 10 girls and two alternates, many of whom will be dancing for the first time this season. Taking on inexperienced dancers is nothing new for Carr and Schultz, though.

"They already trust us as individuals and teachers, so they're more likely to join the team even if it's outside of their comfort zone," Schultz said.

"Almost everyone on our team has learned dance from us," Carr said. "We'll get you to where you need to be."

So far, Carr and Schultz have attempted to push their dancers to try new, difficult and challenging moves, while still teaching them basic techniques and incorporating energy and sharpness into their dances. They've not only seen progress from their newcomers, but have also been impressed with the leadership roles their juniors have taken on. The senior-less squad has relied on its juniors to act as coaches during practices, and Carr and Schultz have yet to see any frustration from their veteran dancers as they walk their rookies through the basics of dance.

"It's kind of amazing to see all of the progress, because they just learned how to dance in July," said junior Taylor Falde. "We're building still, but now that competition season is starting, we'll get there and we're almost there."

"We never get mad at each other," added junior Savannah Carlberg.

"It's fun to teach people new things and watch them improve," said junior Samantha Peterson.

The dancers all support each other and are prepared to take on whatever the judges they dance for during four-month competition season throw their way.

The subjectivity of dance is just something the team has had to roll with, and Carlberg has even found a way to embrace the unpredictable comments the Vallettes receive from judges.

"They're people too," Carlberg said. "We always want people to think differently and have their own opinions, so why should it be different for judges?"

After all, for the Vallettes, the success of their season won't be based on a judge's comment or scoring.

"Knowing that we went out every competition and just did our best, that'll be a win for me," Carr said. "Even if we came in last, as long as we know that we performed well, that's what I look for. It's always nice to have a trophy, but you can't guarantee that."

"We're hopeful that we'll do well, but we never want to go in feeling like we expect anything or that we're entitled to anything," Schultz said. "It's a completely new team, so we don't know what to expect, but we're hopeful."

Menomonie Holiday Classic

The Cardinals began their competition season at the Menomonie Holiday Classic on Saturday, Dec. 1, and brought home a third-place finish in small varsity jazz and a sixth-place finish in small varsity pom. Falde took fourth place in her solo.

The Ellsworth Panthers also competed at the Holiday Classic and were led by a first-place soloist performance from Alyssa Pechacek and a first-place duet from Téa Hill and Haley Herem. As a team, the Panthers took first in small varsity hip hop and finished in second place in both small varsity pom and jazz. The team's hip hop dance won the judges' Showstopper Award, which head coach Angie McHardy said was "awesome" for her team.

The Prescott Cardinals also attended Saturday's competition and claimed first-place finishes in both small varsity pom and jazz.