Written by Brian Ehresman, Media by Brian Ehresman [divide]
Going for Six
Fans of the Greenville College Women’s Volleyball Team will need two hands to count the number of consecutive conference championships their team has won if everything goes according to plan this season. The Lady Panthers will be competing for an unprecedented sixth straight SLIAC championship as they begin the 2015 season. With several key components in place, there is no reason to doubt they will once again be at the pinnacle of the conference. Four-time SLIAC Coach of the Year Tom Ackerman has obviously figured out a winning formula during his time at GC.
“I think we’ve created a culture of success. Our best kids attract the next best kids. There’s just an expectation of what our program is about on and off the court,” Ackerman said. “We get a lot of buy-in from our players.” Two players who have bought in the most are senior libero Jamie Schollenbruch, and sophomore outside hitter Allyson Mitchell. Schollenbruch is the reigning SLIAC Defensive Player of the Year, while Mitchell earned the SLIAC Newcomer of the Year award a season ago. “Jamie is probably the best all-around player we’ve ever had here at Greenville,” Ackerman said. Schollenbruch was also named First Team All SLIAC in 2014, while Mitchell was named to the second team. “Mitch has invested the time and energy this summer to become a better all-around player. She was probably the best attacker in the conference last year but that wasn’t good enough for her. She wants to be a six-rotation player. She has become one of the best all-around players in the conference,” Ackerman said.
Schollenbruch and Mitchell are not the only weapons Greenville has returned on their side of the net. Junior opposite-hitter Savannah Sells is back and presents a tough challenge at the net for opponents. Sierah Ruffner will enter her junior season starting at middle hitter for the third straight year while junior defensive guru Kirsten Laune is back to help anchor the Lady Panther defense. Senior Hannah Baker also returns to provide leadership to the Greenville lineup. The veterans will not be the only players counted on this season for GC as a wave of youth has flooded the Panther squad and will be heavily relied on. GC Women’s Volleyball Freshman setter Felicity Giddings will start the season directing the offense, joining the starting lineup alongside fellow freshmen Riley Hannula and Sarah Watts. Ackerman explained, “In my nineteen years, I’m not sure that I’ve started three freshmen and had two of the three plating six-rotations. It will be imperative that the newcomers and returning players mesh in order to keep the Panthers on top of the SLIAC.” Standing in the way of Greenville’s championship hopes this season are defending SLIAC tournament champion Webster and the Westminster Lady Blue Jays. Despite winning the regular season SLIAC championship the past five seasons, GC has only managed to win the conference tournament and secure a bid to the NCAA tournament bid once. The Lady Panthers are motivated to add to that number this season. “We’ve had two disappointing conference tournaments the past two years, but I think that fuels the fire,” Ackerman said. Fans should get their second hand ready to count in preparation for another banner season for the Greenville Women’s Volleyball team.