SCC Volleyball Team Vying for National Title
The Sandhills Community College volleyball team is raring and ready to go as it makes its first appearance in the nationals this week.
The Lady Flyers (21-6), who have ripped off 10 straight wins down the stretch to capture both region and district championships, are heading to Rochester, Minn., today to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Championship. It’s quite the accomplishment for a program that is wrapping up just its third year in existence.
“The girls are really excited,” said second-year head coach Alicia Hill. “I think they’re anxious to play. They’re ready to play.”
SCC is one of eight teams competing for the national title. The Flyers are sort of the new kids on the block and have been seeded eighth in the tournament. Their first-round match-up is Brookhaven Community College out of Texas, which sports a 36-6 overall record and is the two-time defending national champion.
It may be a tall order for the Flyers, but it’s obvious that the team has embraced its underdog status and is looking to make some noise when it starts play Friday at 11 a.m.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” said freshman Paige Horne. “We’ll just go up there and work our butts off. If we come home with eighth, that’s still eighth in the nation. That’s still something to be proud of.”
Horne said it was an “amazing” feeling to be part of the first SCC team to make it to nationals. She expects that their opponents will take them lightly because of their size, but said they’ll take the court and show everyone what they’re made of.
“The girls don’t look at it as like, ‘Wow, they were the national champions last year,’” Hill said. “They looked at it like they’re going to lose their first game to us. So they’re very confident, and I just hope they play that way.”
The way the bracket is set up, each team is guaranteed to play two games Friday. If it can win one of those games, SCC will be playing on Saturday.
“We have to be scrappy,” sophomore Miranda Love said. “We have to hit smart, play smart.”
Hill said the team is flying into the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and will then drive the remaining 75 miles to Rochester. Some of the girls will be making their first trip on an airplane.
Despite all of the potential distractions, the team is concentrating on the task at hand.
“We have the love for the sport, the passion,” sophomore Sarah Thomas said, “and we just got to keep our minds focused.”
The team will have a private practice today, more practice time on Thursday and a banquet on Thursday evening. Play kicks off Friday morning.
Hill said preparation for nationals isn’t any different from what the team has been doing all season.
“We haven’t changed anything from what we’re already doing,” Hill said. “We’re still working out, practicing two hours every day.”
This season has already been a remarkable one for the Flyers. The team’s current hot streak began with a dramatic five-set win over Brunswick Community College — its first win over the school in more than two years — on Oct. 6.
The Lady Flyers rode that momentum to a key five-set victory over rival Davidson Community College on Oct. 15. They met Davidson again in the Region 10 tournament championship game in Sanford, where they pulled out another dramatic five-set win.
They then blew away Bergen Community College from New Jersey in three sets to win the District H title and punch their ticket to Minnesota.
“It just clicked after we beat Brunswick and definitely after we beat Davidson,” Love said. “That was our main goal — if we didn’t beat anybody, we wanted to beat Davidson.”
The amazing run earned Love Division III Region 10 player of the year honors. Hill was named Region 10 coach of the year.
“The girls just have confidence,” Hill added. “We’ve always been picked the underdogs because of our size. We’ve just become aware of that, and there’s nothing we can change about our height, but we can just be scrappy and the girls just have a lot of confidence right now. And hopefully they take that into nationals and they don’t become intimidated.”
The team’s success has had an immediate impact on the young program. Hill said that she’s been seeing a lot of interest from potential recruits as the season has progressed.
“This has been the greatest recruiting tool,” she said.
Hill and the players agreed that there has been a buzz around campus about the team, and that they’ve been getting a lot of well-wishes from the SCC community. The school held a pep rally Tuesday afternoon.
SCC president John Dempsey said by phone Friday that he hoped to make the trip up to Rochester if the team advanced to play on Saturday. He praised the job Hill has done leading the program, and said that he was proud of the passion, discipline and heart the team plays with.
“They really do dig deep to go after these balls, keep them in play and set it up so that Miranda or somebody else can smash it,” he said. “They just seem to get better.”
Contact John Krahnert III at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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