The Golden Eagles women’s volleyball team closed its electric 2017 season with a 34-8 record, a Region IX championship, and a 10th-place finish at its first ever national championship appearance.
The Golden Eagles improved on their 28-10 record from last season and the upgrades started at the net and with recruiting.
“We decided to go a little bit bigger with our recruiting and tried to get a little more size at the net,” head coach Austin Albers said. “Especially being as young as we were we had size and physicality to fall back on.”
Young. That’s what LCCC was since 11 out of 16 players were freshman we had to set goals during the summer because it can be tough to get a young team to start playing as a team, Albers said.
“As the season progresses we try to graduate the girls beyond the freshman standard of having those first-year mistakes or freshman freak-out moments,” Albers said. “We try to replicate pressure throughout the season so that when the big moment does come we can fall back on to some of those times where they’ve succeeded.”
A major focus for Albers and his young squad heading into the 2017 season was to try to be more aggressive in the serving game and score more points. The Golden Eagles ended the season with an average of 2.13 service aces per set, which was up from 1.88 the previous year.
LCCC led the country in service aces after recording 318 service aces throughout the year. For comparison, national champions Miami Dade College only had 185 and averaged only 1.62 per set.
“Being aggressive also comes with a lot of other errors, but I thought we did a good job getting other teams out of sync with our serving,” Albers said.
As successful as this season was, Albers and the Golden Eagles still have a lot of work to do before next season gets underway.
“Going to the national tournament showed us a lot after seeing some of those teams across the net from us,” Albers said. “We need to get a lot more physical in terms of how high we were playing above the net. We need to become a much better blocking team and need to clean up our first contact and defensive transition.”
The Golden Eagles, who were the 11th seed, lost their first matchup at the national tournament to six seed Mineral Area College from Park Hills, Missouri.
Fighting through the consolation bracket, the Golden Eagles eventually lost to Panola College from Carthage, Texas, to finish in 10th place.
“We need to work to maintain our seeding throughout the season next year in case we do make it to the national tournament,” Albers said. “We drew a pretty tough matchup being the 11 seed, but a higher seed will definitely help us out.”
With this being Albers and the volleyball team’s first-ever visit to the national championship, they weren’t entirely sure what to expect. Albers had multiple coaches from the region and the head coach at Idaho State reach out to offer advice about the tournament. The majority of the advice was to be consistent with how you played all year.
“I thought our team did a really good job of playing well throughout the tournament,” Albers said. “We were a little wide-eyed at first, especially since it was everyone’s first time, which is a part of the experience. Hopefully it should prepare us for future tournament opportunities.”