Last season the Toledo Christian volleyball team posted a 19-5 overall record and advanced to the district final.
Great season, right?
Well, sort of.
We had really high expectations last year, Eagles coach Dave Conley said. We absolutely looked at it as a successful season. We were disappointed to lose in the district final, and we were disappointed to come in second in the conference last year.
But we set our expectations so high, so when you don t reach some of your goals then you re a little bit disappointed. But once you get outside the realm of the season, you realize that we had a nice season.
This year could be the most successful in school history.
Toledo Christian is 14-0, including wins over Whitmer and Bowsher.
The Eagles also are 6-0 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference and aiming for their first league title.
Conley said the experience his team gained last season is paying dividends this year.
From an experience and confidence standpoint, there s a huge difference from last year to this year, he said. Now our girls know what it takes to go to the next level.
Senior libero Deanna Soviar said last year served as a motivating factor.
Last year was better than the years before, but it was a bittersweet kind of thing, said Soviar, a third-year starter. It was exciting to get as far as we did [in the tournament] it was something new. But we were going so well, anyone would want to go farther.
Junior middle blocker Jasmine Vugrinac agreed, adding, Last year was a growing year. We had good senior leadership, and it really helped prepare us for this year. We used last year as a learning experience, and we tried to get better each day.
That development became apparent in an early season win over Whitmer, a feat the Eagles duplicated over the weekend at the Bowsher tournament. Conley said senior outside hitter Jacki Emmenecker has stepped forward to lead the team.
She was huge against Whitmer, Conley said of Emmenecker, a four-year starter. We were facing game point in the first game, and she had a huge kill. She s the hardest worker on the team and has the best attitude she s going to be hard to replace.
Other top players include Soviar, junior setter/outside hitter Maggie Busch, a three-year starter, and Vugrinac, now in her second year as a starter. Conley said Soviar in particular has made a sacrifice this season that will benefit the team in the long run.
She was an outside hitter and blocker last year, and she has a great serve, Conley said. But we needed a libero, and I approached her in the off-season [about moving to libero]. I told her she could be a game-changer for us back there.
Basically, she said [she would do] anything she could to help the team out.
That s what you want from a player you can t ask for anything more.
Soviar said making the move to a new position was easy decision to make.
We weren t going to get anywhere with Deanna playing for Deanna. Deanna has to play for Toledo Christian; she has to play for the rest of the team, Soviar said. We ve all had to work as a team. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and I think that s one lesson we ve taken to heart.
Emmenecker said Soviar s teammates have noticed her sacrifice.
She wants to hit, and she loves to hit, Emmenecker said of Soviar.
But to make the sacrifice and change to libero, she showed she is a leader and a captain. She took the position she was given and [embraced] it with all of her heart.
Toledo Christian took a big step toward a memorable season with a five-game victory over Cardinal Stritch on Sept. 15; that win marked the first time in school history the Eagles had beaten Stritch.
It s a mental thing Stritch has owned us over the years, Conley said. By far they have been a better program, and it has taken us several years to get to their point. It definitely was a mental hurdle [to beat them].
There always was a little bit of doubt until we had beaten them. It was a little stressful.
Toledo Christian won the first two games, only to see Cardinal Stritch win the third and fourth to force a deciding fifth game.
At the start of the fifth game, I remember saying, This game only goes to 15 we have to start [playing well] right now, Busch said.
There still are hurdles in front of the Eagles: there s the rematch at Stritch on Oct. 3, as well as the tournament.
With Jacki as a senior and Deanna as a senior, we thought [before the season] this was our year. Busch said. When you come really close and lose [like last year], we thought, We re not letting that happen again this year.
Contact John Wagner at:email@example.com or 419-724-6481.