The 2009 Crusader Volleyball Team Looks to “Challenge their Limits” this season
If you were a Green Bay Packers fan in the early 1960’s undoubtedly you remember Vince Lombardi’s famous quote, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” If you have been a college sports fan for anytime at all you probably remember Tim Tebow’s famous promise in the middle of last year’s college football season. If you have been anywhere near the Hayes Gymnasium this fall, you have probably heard “Don’t limit your challenges, but challenge your limits.”
This has become the cry of the 2009 Crusader volleyball team which is looking forward to what could be the most accomplished season in recent NGU history. To compliment Coach Axson’s inspirational mantra, this year’s team yields arguably the most talented crop of players third year coach Lauren Axson has had to work with in her short tenure at North Greenville University.
Doing well in the NCCAA regional tournament, is definitely a goal Coach Axson has focused on as she prepares the Crusaders for this season, but the team’s main goal for Axson is to see that Christ is glorified in every aspect of the volleyball program. Axson, who served overseas as a missionary for two years, definitely knows the importance of being Christ-centered. “My first goal as a coach/mentor is to see that my players grow more intimate in their walks with the Lord.”
The road to the regional’s will begin for Coach Axson and the Crusaders on August 28th as the NGU volleyball team will travel to Anderson, SC for the Anderson Invitational. Early home matches include regional rivals Southern Wesleyan University and Brevard while a visit to Mars Hill in early October will provide a great challenge against a quality opponent. The Crusaders also face five NCAA opponents out of the South Atlantic Conference (SAC). These opponents include the previously mentioned Mars Hill, Anderson College and Brevard, as well as Newberry and Lincoln Memorial.
The Crusaders will lean heavily on an improved offense this season which should be a crisper, quicker version of last year’s attack. Similar to last season, the center piece of the offense will be senior setter Gabbrielle McKinley (Sr. 5-7). Her consistency as well her vocal leadership on the court should show dividends this season. Charlotte Swain (Jr. 5-9), who with McKinley represented NGU as members of National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCAA) All Regional team, will lead a young group of talented outside hitters. Swain may be the most athletic player on the court for NGU and should be more effective this year with the improvement of Laurel Vaughn (Sr. 5-9). “Charlotte is not going to have to receive the majority of the sets this year which is going to improve her output greatly this season.” Kaitlyn Pierce (So. 6’) will be the force inside at middle hitter along with Alaska-Anchorage transfer Kayla Kelly (So. 6-1).
A focal point during early workouts has been serve receive and has been attracting roughly an hour of Coach Axson’s attention at each practice. With the departure of the ICAA’s Libero of the year Amanda Bouchillon, Axson must have veterans Lauren Hawkins (Jr. 5-8) and Mellissa Ragsdale (So. 5-5) step in so the Crusaders do not see much drop in production. The return of Devan Davidson (Sr. 5-9) to the right side after being injured all last season will add needed stability and senior leadership to the defensive attack.
The dependent variable of this year’s squad will be both freshmen and transfer newcomers who could make immediate impacts this season. On the right side 5-10 redshirt freshmen Sarah Beth White should see immediate playing time. Palm Beach Atlantic transfer Kaitlyn Harris (So. 5-7) will also be worked into the rotation at outside hitter utilizing her height on both offense and defense. The hitting tandem of the future may also be previewed this season as freshmen Anjelica Wilcox (5-9) and Haleigh Gilbert (6-0) will both see ample court time this year.
For the Lady Crusaders to have a successful season they must utilize their strengths while improving the weaker areas as the season progresses. Axson Said, “One of our biggest strengths is the unity this team possesses. They never quit on each other and that should translate to a willingness to battle for tough points.” This attitude will be put to the test often this season as the Crusaders again face a more than challenging schedule. These challenges should prove beneficial by the end of the year though, as the Crusaders host the NCCAA regionals in Tigerville. “Competing at a high level this season can do nothing but strengthen our team and prepare us for post season play,” Axson stated. The Crusaders will hold their home opener September 1st, 2009 against Converse College.