Christian Zylstra – Staff Writer
Before every season, the Dordt College Defenders volleyball squad meets to discuss the values and goals they want to achieve throughout the season. This year, three goals were mentioned repeatedly: building the team relationship, enjoying the game of volleyball and respecting every opponent.
After the team’s trip to California and the rest of the nonconference schedule, those goals are already a success.
“I think the trip went well,” said women’s volleyball coach Chad Hanson. “We were able to accomplish our goals and more. I was interested to see how competitive we would be against some very tough opponents. In the four matches we played we grew considerably in maturity, communication and effectiveness on the court.”
The women’s team had two wins and two losses on its trip to the Golden State. Both losses came against nationally ranked teams, while both wins came in five sets on the same day, with only a two-hour break in between.
“Our nonconference schedule is hefty in the caliber of opponents we’ve scheduled,” Hanson said. “The schools that we beat are top teams in other conferences.”
It’s performances and schedules like Dordt’s that earn the respect of not only other GPAC schools, but also of schools across the nation.
Respect also plays a big factor in national rankings both before and during the season. Dordt’s volleyball squad came into the season ranked-13th nationally, but if Dordt wants to remain near the top, keeping opponent’s respect will be very important.
“Inside our program, trying to keep our players motivated, focused and driven to daily improvement, team camaraderie and an identity beyond who we are as individuals helps earn that respect,” Hanson said. “If our athletes enter the gym each day and have a focus of what they can do to contribute to the greater cause of our competitive program, that will help us grow.”
Looking ahead in the season, there is no reason the Dordt Defenders cannot contend in the GPAC. But Hanson realizes that looking ahead can be dangerous, so he and the program will continue to take it one game at a time.
“Nationals is always in the end picture, and we really want to play on Saturday,” Hanson said. “If we play on Saturday, we’re playing in the final four. The reality of us building the confidence and competitiveness to get to that point will mean we must first take care of our nonconference schedule. It won’t be easy, and we’re really going to have to work and be committed to our efforts.”
Making it to the elimination rounds in the national tournament made this past season a success for the women’s team. With balance throughout the roster (two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen in the regular rotation) and experience from previous seasons, this year could be a great year to be a Dordt College Defender.