By Daniel Branley
The Bryan College volleyball team’s season ended in defeat at the hands of Indiana University East (Richmond, Ind.) in the opening round of the NAIA National Championships. This loss, however, has not overshadowed the achievements of the players and coaching staff, who managed to be crowned AAC regular season and conference tournament champions. This historic season is the first time in the program’s history that they have earned the right to play in the National Tournament after setting an excellent overall record of 32-10.
After taking time to reflect on the season and the memorable conference final win over Montreat (N.C.) College, junior Carolyn Evans said, “Winning the tournament was a surreal experience. We worked so hard this past season, and once the ball hit the floor for the last point everything just hit us. It was crazy to think that we had just made Bryan College history.”
Having won the Conference Tournament, the Lady Lions where invited to play in their first ever national championship. This was a special moment for the players, and they hoped the opportunity would allow the program to announce its arrival on the national scale. This, however, seemed to be a step too far for the team, as the Lady Lions were defeated in three straight sets by IU East.
Evaluating the disappointing nature of the defeat, junior Chelsea Breaden, said, “going to the national championship was an emotional experience for us. We were nervous and excited to play IU East. They played a faster offense than we were used to, and I think we lost our confidence and began to panic a little bit. We learned so much from that game and we are already preparing to win again next year.”
In only his second season leading the volleyball team, Coach David Shumaker is overjoyed that his team managed to perform at such a high level. He did, however, say that if the team is to progress, the players will have to learn to control their emotions during big games.
“The bottom line is the game doesn’t change,” he explained. “What changes is our emotions, our players will have to learn to deal with their nerves. What we need to take away from the tournament is that if we manage to control our emotions, that will be helpful while playing against top opposition.”
When asked about the future development of the program, Shumaker said he was happy to only have one graduating senior. This means that his team will be able to stay together and become stronger going into next season. He believes that the tournament reinforced the need for the team to have a more competitive schedule.
“We need to schedule better teams who are quicker, stronger and will help us progress to the point we need to be to challenge on the national scale.”
Looking to the future Shumaker said, “We have already been recruiting and have early commitments from three athletes and possibly a transfer student. Overall, I am pleased; I feel as though we are bringing in athletes who can be a good fit at Bryan and will help to raise the overall level of our team.”