Martin leads Golden Eagles to Nationals

The Laramie County Community College volleyball team is going dancing once again after winning District C of the Region IX tournament on Nov. 3 at Storey Gym.

The Golden Eagles started the tournament out with a bang on Oct. 31, beating Casper College 3-2. Casper had to play twice on the first day, beating Lamar College for the chance to be in the eight-team bracket. The Thunderbirds were a familiar team to the Golden Eagles, sweeping them at home on Sept. 21 then beating them in Casper on Oct. 19 by a 3-1 score.

According to LCCC coach Austin Albers, the Golden Eagles played well offensively but struggled on the defensive side.

“We had a great offensive match as a team but played really poorly on the defensive end, especially at the net,” Albers said.

The Golden Eagles would go on to play Northeastern Junior College for the chance to play for the District B championship. The Golden Eagles lost the match 3-2 (27-25, 25-15, 24-26, 20-25, 11-15). The loss was heartbreaking after LCCC came out winning the first sets to then drop the next three.

“That one was tough, two teams eveningly matched, they made an adjustment, but we didn’t overreact. We just talked about the situation we’re in, we have tough, familier opponents ahead and this is what we have to do. First team to win three games makes the national tournament, and that loss it just a reset, we have to win three games,” Albers said.

The Golden Eagles would come out Nov. 2 as if nothing occured the night before. They played McCook Community College, which was a tough match for LCCC throughout the season, and won the match 3-1 (25-19, 25-14, 21-25, 25-23). According to Albers, he was proud to see the way his team responded just 24 hours after the crushing loss to Northeastern.

“I was proud of the way that our ladies responded after a tough loss and a quick turn around,” Albers said. “McCook has been a team that has been a tough match-up for us this year and it was big for us to be able to get out of this one in four.”

Nov. 4 was championship day, but LCCC had to play Western Wyoming Community College  to get to the District C championship. LCCC won both meetings with Western this year, notching a 3-2 win in Rock Springs before completing the sweep with a 3-0 victory at home on Oct. 13.

The Golden Eagles won the match 3-1 (25-21, 26-24, 25-13, 25-14). The win booked them a match with Western Nebraska Community College. WNCC had been a ranked team all year long and was a match that the Golden Eagles looked forward to playing.

“We have a little rivalry with them, and the first game we played them they beat us in five, which that was tough to swallow, we had them and we were so close, so when we played them here and beat them, it made us realize we can beat them and we can beat an extremely good team. Being able to have a mindset as they’re a talented team but were even more talented if we give it everything we got,” said sophomore standout Kylie Martin.

The Golden Eagles only needed four sets as they took down WNCC 3-1 (25-15, 18-25, 25-14, 26-24) and punched their ticket to the national tournament.

The Golden Eagles also made the national tournament last year, but Albers said this team is different from those in the past.

“It’s a privilege to coach this bunch, they’re obviously talented but we’ve had talented teams in the past, this team really bought into our coaching, to LCCC volleyball as a program, and really dedicated themselves to making this year special,” Albers said.

According to Albers, he has enjoyed this year’s team due to how it was built up the right way and has had a great culture. The difference between last year’s 10th-place national team and this year’s team is teamwork.

“No one cares on this year’s team on who gets credit and who gets on the floor, and makes sure everyone has a role, and has a mutual respect for one another,” Albers said.

Martin has been the leading outside hitter for LCCC for the last two seasons, recording more than 6,000 kills and more than 350 digs. Martin was also the only hitter for the Golden Eagles to post double-digit kills in the Region IX tournament.

“She’s a really special player, not the biggest kid out there, she doesn’t jump the highest, but she is our mature leader and presence out there. She is steady and reliable. Last year in the conference championship, (Sheridan College) kept trying to block Avery (Nelson), and Kylie quietly went for 17 kills,” Albers said.

Albers also said that he has received calls from Division I volleyball coaches about playing at the Division I level. Martin is enrolled in the Radiography program at LCCC and is going to be at LCCC next year, but will be ineligible to play volleyball due to NJCAA rules. Albers and Martin both agreed that she would keep working with the team next year and hopes that coaches would be willing to wait that one year, so she could give success to a team at the next level as she has done for LCCC.

Albers also described Martin as a player that steps up in the big moments and plays her best. She is seen as a player that a coach can lean on, Albers said, adding that Martin is a player that needs to be on the floor at all times as she would rarely be taken out during the Region IX tournament.

“At the national tournament last year she put up big numbers, and played really well in that big stage,” Albers said.

Martin said she is very competitive and always thinks that every game is win-or-go-home situation to make sure she gives it all that she can for not just herself but those around her.

“It’s for my teammates, for my coach, and being able to win for the community. I just focus in and think this could be my last game in my LCCC uniform,” Martin said.

LCCC plays College of Southern Idaho at 11 a.m. on Nov. 15 at the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.

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