Hold your heads high ladies, and your expectations even higher. Salt Lake Community College’s Women’s Volleyball came back from the NJCAA’s national tournament short of their team ambition to be crowned this year’s national volleyball champions. The team came into the tournament ranked 8th in the nation, and concluded the year ranked fourth, by placing fourth in the tournament.
Were it not for their collective courage and resilience it could’ve been worse. “We lost a two year starter (and team captain) who just up and quit,” head coach Sue Delaney said. “It was hard, we regrouped as quickly as we could…competing three days later against the College of Southern Idaho (CSI), the defending national champs.”
The Lady Bruins lost their captain after a surprising loss to Snow College midseason and stumbled with consecutive losses in their next two matches but fought hard to regain their composure winning seven of their next nine matches.
Freshman team member Kemi McFarland recalled the struggles. “Having all of the stuff my team went through, like having a captain leave in the middle of the season after a loss was hard. I feel like our team pulled together and came back and won the games that we needed to. We beat the number one team in the nation, Miami Dade.” The team managed one more win in the national tournament against Midland College before falling to eventual champion, Western Nebraska. “I feel like we just ran out of steam because that was such an emotional match.”
The team finished the year with a record of 28-8, finishing second in the region, and fourth in the nation. The Lady Bruins have reached the national tournament in each of the three years Coach Sue Delaney has been at SLCC, won the region once and placed second in her other two years.
Junior college athletic programs face the unique problem of losing nearly half of their team each year to graduation and transfer to four-year institutions.
“I lose half my team every year,” Delaney said. “It’s hard. We try to break down things and try to get them (the athletes) ready for the next fall. And then hopefully they’re the strong solid group and then we have another incoming class of freshman right out of high school, three weeks later, they’re competing. It’s a lot of work continually.”
The struggle for leadership and continuity though, does not diminish expectation. When asked about if a national championship was her goal, Coach Delaney responded without hesitation.
“Oh absolutely. I mean, that’s what we want to do.”
Returning starter Kellie Turner echoed the confidence in the Bruins “We’ll take it next year. I think that the people coming back are good. I’m hoping that we’ll have a good team next year and I think we will. “
“I hope for a national championship,” Kemi McFarland said. The 6’1″ McFarland will replace Catalina Charry as the team’s primary setter next year. “Being this tall, it helps with team blocking. I feel like it makes the game faster because when I jump set I’m higher up and it makes the ball go faster.” Erika and Catalina Charry will both play for Division 1 Hofstra University in New York next year.
With a whole spring semester of conditioning and coaching ahead of them the Lady Bruins will most certainly be poised to make an even stronger run at the national title.