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You are the voice. We are the echo.
The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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Strieter, Hurt reflect on a hard-fought season for TU volleyball

Seniors start and finish together

This Taylor women’s volleyball season was unexpected. From a previous year that stayed undefeated at home, to having a losing record of over 15-plus matches, the team’s success did not seem to show. 

But it was not about the wins, losses or stats. It was about player growth. It was about loyalty and how two seniors stuck with the program to the end of their journey.

Savannah Strieter and Chelsea Hurt came into their freshman year of college while COVID-19 was rampant. Since their freshman year, they’ve stuck together through the rough times and the best times. This season especially, the team was in an interesting spot. 

“Our team is very new,” Strieter said. “We had a lot of kinks to work out this season.”

Currently, the team boasts five freshmen, along with one transfer sophomore. In the offseason, former right-side hitter Ana Davidson decided to leave Taylor and go with her husband to France. In doing so, the senior duo had to make quick work of leadership, even if they may not have been playing. 

Strieter came into this year hoping to play and have a breakout season. Unfortunately, she tore her labrum on the second day of early team camp, sitting her out from then until the last few weeks of the season. Still, this did not hinder the passion she had for the team. 

“Most of the team is on the bench — that is the reality of pretty much any sport you are going to play,” Strieter explained. “Teaching the team how to have the posture of engagement and excitement and being able to win at the mental game was super huge.”

When she wasn’t playing, Strieter was always leading team cheers on the bench. Dubbed “The Cheer Captain,” she gave a lot of confidence and spirit to those who were not playing. Her mental toughness increased as the worry of an injury did not become the biggest of her problems. 

As for Hurt, she found it exciting to watch some of the younger players get their chance, shouting out freshmen Susanne Storey and Abi Powers. 

“(The freshmen) grew a lot more confident as the season continued,” Hurt said. “I could see from a player perspective.”

Hurt had a career year, playing the most matches and sets in her career. Receiving more action on the court, she was able to see the players around her grow. As she and Strieter have stayed in the program all four years, they’ve been blessed to see the close-knit community remain strong. 

Aside from the players’ perspectives, head coach Erin Luthy had to embrace the tribulations of this past year. In her times of reflection, she witnessed firsthand how much these two seniors displayed leadership on the team. 

“I saw a sense of steadiness from them,” Luthy said. “They were unwavering with their loyalty to their program. Their voices were being heard in the team dynamic.”

2023 was Luthy’s eighth season as the head coach of the women’s volleyball program. In her eight years, she has only seen three classes stay together for all four years. This was a special moment for her as a coach. 

In Luthy’s mind, there was never a pinpoint memory or highlight she can describe to show the growth of the two leading seniors. Rather, she saw the sport as a small portion of their walk as growing women. 

As Luthy looked beyond sports, she spoke of adjusting to the real world, and how what happened this year will aid Strieter and Hurt as they leave Taylor. 

“Sports create snapshots of real-life experiences,” Luthy said. “Faith and calling is important, and sports prepare us for the real world.”

Luthy wanted to show that even through successes and failures, the team was able to see the low points and build off of them for greater success. 

When looking ahead to next year, Luthy is excited to see the possibility of seven returning players leading the team. There is a buzzing excitement going from a small class to a much larger returning group. She describes it as a sense of urgency and a sense of “hunger” for players to lead and get better.

It goes without saying that volleyball played a crucial role in strengthening the faith, minds and hearts of Strieter and Hurt. From coming in at a rough time to ending in a better place, they show just how much impact they had on Taylor women’s volleyball.