The Taylor Trojans’ women’s volleyball team have come into this coming year once again in dominant fashion. In 16 matches played, they have only lost three, falling to teams that have been ranked or are receiving votes to be ranked.
The team first took their loss in the Labor Day Classic tournament in early September. They lost the first two matches but came back in dominant fashion winning in three sets for the next two the following day. In that tournament, Senior setter Kacy Bragg amassed 3,000 career assists, the tenth trojan in school history to make this milestone.
“It’s exciting (hitting the milestone),” she said. “I’m honored to be on this team…I could not get that many assists with the hitters and the passers. It is definitely a team effort”.
Their latest win was against conference opponent Spring Arbor University. Winning in three straight sets, Bragg had 40 assists, passing to Senior transfer and outside-hitter Arlanda Faulkner with 10 kills, Sophomore middle-blocker Jaylynn Dunsmore with 10 kills, and Senior right-side hitter Ryan Czerniak with 13 kills.
In the Viterbo Tournament, the last of the season, the Trojans played their last opponent against Rocky Mountain College. Taking home the win, Bragg poured in 34 assists. In addition to the Spring Arbor win, Bragg pushes her total 630 assists on the season. This is just nearing 60 sets played. She leads the NAIA with a 10 assists-per-set average and is under 200 assists away from moving into the seventh-place spot for all-time assist leader in program history, and on pace for 4,000 assists on the year.
Not only has Bragg had a stellar start to the season, but she also gave high praise to Senior right-side hitter Ryan Czerniak. She had her 1,000th career kill in just the first match of the season and has continued to push her success beyond just a milestone. Now, Czerniak leads the entire NAIA with over 230 kills and a hitting percentage of .456 in just this season.
“Playing with her is a huge blessing,” Bragg said. “She’s a very humble player…She never makes it all about herself, she is very team focused”. Bragg and Czerniak are co-captains of the team, and knowing that Czerniak is putting in the work makes the game a whole lot more exciting for both teammates.
This season brought four new faces to the team. Faulkner, Sophomore mid-hitter Grace Ieremia, Junior outside-hitter Anna Frey, and Sophomore libero Jen Springer are all playing in the program for the first time this year. Springer gives insight into how this year has been.
“I think we are really playing (well) together as a team,” she said. “Since we have that team chemistry, we are able to win games”. Springer transferred in from Purdue-Fort Wayne, and is loving the culture that team has. She plans to build on her skills and learn how to push not only herself, but her teammates to be better players of the sport.
Since finishing this past tournament of the season and starting conference play, the Trojans have only lost three matches in the four total tournaments played this year. They are also undefeated in Crossroads, and hopefully looking to keep that for the rest of the year.
When looking at team play, both Bragg and Springer gave credit to Head Coach Erin Luthy. In just her seventh year being the head coach, she has led the team to being another Crossroads contender and an NAIA powerhouse. Last year, she coached her team to almost the exact start as this season, going 13-2 in 15 matches played. She also had her 100th win last year and led her team to 1,300 overall wins, being the second team in all of the NAIA to do so. Her coaching dominance has really taken effect since 2015 when she took the coaching job.
The team is ranked No. 19 in the NAIA and have no plans on letting up. The back half of the season is now all Crossroads league play. The Lady Trojans play teams such as Marian University, rival Indiana Wesleyan, Spring Arbor, and Grace College.