After the first game of Emma Fox’s senior year, she immediately realized the importance of her role.

In the season opener, starter Jenavieve Lynch suffered an injury. The rest of Bozeman’s players understood what that meant.

They needed to rise to the occasion.

“I have to step up my motivation, my energy with the team to be able to encourage others when they’re down,” Fox said of what she thought at the time, “especially even in practice or games, being able to motivate them and not frustrate myself and just stay positive the whole entire game.”

Fox spent the rest of the season focusing on her teammates. As a setter, her job is to put others in position to succeed. It’s a spot that suits her partially because of her family life and partially because of how she accepts coaching and relays her knowledge.

As the East No. 4 seed Hawks (12-13, 6-6 Eastern AA) ready to host a playoff matchup at 6 p.m. Thursday against East No. 5 Great Falls, it’s a role Fox embraced seamlessly.

“I think I can lead the team in different aspects,” Fox said. “I think I come with a lot of volleyball IQ because I get to see the court as it is. ... I love being able to push the girls to play their best during games.”

A year ago as a junior, Fox became the Hawks’ full-time setter midway through the season. She had spent time as a backup until that point. All of a sudden, she was the one Bozeman’s offense flowed through.

Fox told head coach Ashley Obstar she would do whatever was necessary in order to become an asset rather than a liability. She trained on her own on Saturdays. She asked coaches for extra reps before and after practice.

Within weeks, Fox was reliable enough to help Bozeman reach the Class AA championship and earn first-team all-state honors.

“That, I think, is pretty phenomenal,” Obstar said. “It’s surprising but it’s also not surprising if you know Emma.”

Fox on the court mirrors her personality off it.

She’s gone out of her way to build relationships with teammates so they feel comfortable discussing any kind of topic, positive or negative, with her. When they grow frustrated with their play, she’s open to talk to them.

Fox attributes her ability to connect with others to having three sisters, one older and two younger. She tries to treat her teammates like sisters too. They respect her skill, Obstar said, but they appreciate how she interacts with them more.

“I’d like to say I’m somebody that the team can come to if there’s any problems or if they’re upset with how they’re playing,” Fox said. “I really love being able to motivate all my players on the team.”

Obstar, once a setter herself, is admittedly hard on whoever plays the position. She estimated that she gives Fox more critical feedback than anyone else on the team. But that’s because Fox can handle it.

And even when Obstar forgets the instructions she gave, Fox comes back and asks her coach if she improved in that area.

“She’s just the most coachable athlete, and she’s always looking for ways to improve,” Obstar said. “She just doesn’t have that ‘I’m there yet’ kind of attitude or ‘Oh I’ve done everything I could up until this point, now I’m just going to let it roll.’ She’s always wanting to improve, and the team notices.”

A few weeks ago, Fox verbally committed to play collegiately at Rocky Mountain in Billings. She’s excited that younger players at Bozeman can look up to her and see there’s a path to continue playing beyond high school.

Before then, Fox hopes she can extend her Hawks career a little longer.

“There’s a little more pressure being a senior knowing that we won’t be playing as a whole team next year all together,” Fox said. “There’s a lot I’d like to leave as a legacy.”

No matter what happens Thursday, that’s already been accomplished.

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.