The volleyball team is coming into this year ready to take the next step.
Despite their recent drought, the team believes it has what it takes to elevate their level of play past where it has been in recent years.
“Taylor, we’re one of the most winningest programs in all of NAIA history, but we've had a drought,” said Head Coach Erin Luthy. “We haven't been to nationals in almost 10 years, so it's time,” These girls are hungry for it and we're excited about the possibilities ahead.”
With a balanced attack and the return of two all-conference players from last season, junior Ryan Czerniak and senior Amanda Adams, the team has a strong roster and is determined to prove themselves.
Being separated for a longer time than usual and the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season due to COVID-19 are two reasons that the team feels more driven than ever.
“We cannot take a single second in this gym for granted, we don't know when it could get shut down again,” Adams said. “Every time we're walking into that gym it counts and it matters.”
The team graduated three seniors over the summer, two of whom were all-conference players, which leaves big shoes to fill. Transfers Stephaney Fifield, junior, and Addie Sieber, sophomore, as well as incoming freshmen, will be asked to fill those holes.
With a large mix of freshmen and transfers, chemistry could be a potential area of concern; however, junior Ryan Czerniak doesn’t see that as being much of an issue.
“Our team has done a really good job of just including people regardless of if they're transfers or freshmen,” Czerniak said.
Last year, the team struggled in conference play, finishing the season with a 10-8 record in conference play. That is an area that will need to improve for the team this year, but wins don’t come easy in the Crossroads conference. Marian University was the NAIA national champion this past season, plus teams like Indiana Wesleyan and St. Francis are never easy to play.
“We had some really frustrating losses last year, within our conference,” said Luthy. “We ended 10-8, and we were just points away from being 15-3. I think we could redeem ourselves on some of those losses that we had that we shouldn't have had last year as well as we have the reigning national champs with Marion in our conference and Indiana Wesleyan is ranked seventh in the nation right now, so looking forward to those matches, you know we knock off one of those big dogs and then all of a sudden we're to national level.”
Cleaning up frustrating losses is a must for Taylor to take the big step they’re looking for this year, and playing against the high-caliber teams in the conference will give them chances to establish themselves nationally.
Moral of the story is that this is a team that is entering this season hungry and is planning on putting up a fight regardless of the opponent.
“They're committed, they're focused, highly motivated to do really well so if we can stay healthy, we have high expectations,” Luthy said. “Our obviously biggest goal for this year is to compete at the national level, and honestly I think we have the personnel in order to be able to do that. We just need to really grind and do the things we need to do to get there.”