The North Greenville University volleyball team has a secret. It’s a good one too … they are excited about playing and coming to the gym every day. That was not always the case for the Crusaders who endured a winless season just two years ago. With seniors Brittany Drake (Columbia, SC), Caitlin Cunniff (Lake Toxaway, NC), and Amanda Bouchillon (Anderson, SC) leading the way, the secret may get out.
NGU will open its home season Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 6:00 p.m. in the Hayes Gymnasium when they host Columbia University.
Second year coach Lauren Axson’s primary task has been to change the culture of her young squad, which has gone 2-7 to open the 2008 campaign. The spikers defeated Kentucky State 3-1 last weekend at the Lincoln Memorial (TN) Tournament, and Axson was pleased with her team’s progress. “We had one spot against Kentucky State, where as in the past, we could have tossed in the towel. However, after we lost the first game, we fought back and won the next three games, and that was a key point for us. We have to learn to create opportunities to win. Lincoln Memorial also outsized us at the net, and they had a big lead in one game, but we fought back from a 23-16 deficit and almost won the game. We kept fighting and came close to winning. We will not concede a loss to anymore anymore.”
Axson pointed out the emergence of two freshmen middle hitters, Brittany Rivera (FR Greenville, SC) and Kaitlyn Pierce (FR Winston-Salem, NC) as key to the building blocks for the Crusaders. “Brittany and Kaitlyn give us more height at the net, but it also allowed us to move Amanda Bouchillon and Charlotte Swain (SO Woodruff, SC) to the outside. Last year, Amanda and Charlotte had to play the middle; this year, it gives us four solid attackers, and has allowed us to speed up our offense.”
The Crusaders have turned the setting duties over to newcomer Gabby McKinley (JR Asheville, NC), who has given the team consistency at that key position. “Melissa Ragsdale and Gabby have been in a battle for the setting role, but Melissa has settled in at defensive specialist and has given us a big lift,” Axson added. “Kindal Farver (FR Largo, FL) is a freshman who has come in to provide stability with her passing and leads us in digs at the liberto position. Overall, I’m very pleased with the progress the team has made this early in the year.