by Tim Smith
A wise man once said, “There’s a first time for everything.”
In 2021, that includes traversing a women’s volleyball season amidst a national pandemic.
What started off on rocky and uncertain terms soon became a successful 9-4 season for the Cedarville women’s volleyball team, along with a deep run in the G-MAC tournament. It was unlike anything any of the coaches or players had experienced before.
“I felt like the team navigated through the season well,” said head coach Greg Smith. “As we went through the season we got more comfortable playing together and the team chemistry strengthened which was so important to our success at the end of the year.”
And succeed they did. Despite the shortened season, the Cedarville Lady Jackets made their impact. For the first time in the program’s history, the team was ranked No. 25 in the AVCA NCAA Division II coaches poll. Two of their nine victories on the way to this achievement were against ranked teams as well.
“We were playing some really good volleyball by the end of the year,” Smith said.
Haley Goff, a freshman on the Lady Jackets’ varsity squad, echoed her coach’s joys.
“I feel the season was a bit short, but worth every second,” said Goff. “We are a team of fighters with big hearts for volleyball.”
Senior Liene Miller led the team in kills, totaling 181 over the course of the season. Lauren Willow followed right behind her, racking up 153 total kills. Both Miller and Willow were named first-team all G-MAC this season as well. Sophomore libero Mallory Delamarter was the defensive face of the team, with 176 total digs, averaging 3.67 digs per set.
Goff, one of four freshmen on the squad, played in every game for Cedarville this season, along with her other freshman teammates. In fact, the Lady Jackets boasted a very young squad, with only five of the thirteen players being upperclassmen. It seems this inexperience was the cause of some of the team’s struggles early on.
“We had a couple of losses early on as we were trying to figure out lineups and playing a lot of underclassmen,” said Smith.
As the inexperienced squad began to gain experience, the trajectory for the squad turned upward quickly. And with such a young squad, it doesn’t appear that rise will be stopping anytime soon.
“With everybody coming back from this year’s roster, it will be a great off-season for us,” said coach Smith. “We are not having to change a whole lot but will really work on aspects of our game that got exposed during the course of the season.”
The stability in the roster can be attributed to the return of this year’s seniors. The NCAA has granted athletes another season of eligibility this year due to COVID-19. Goff was also excited about the prospect of the entire squad returning.
“Praise the Lord that our seniors are coming back,” said the freshman.”Our offseason will be a lot of preparing to come back just as strong as we ended and if not stronger.”
Headed into the offseason, the expectations are high for the Lady Jackets. Continued success might lead to a higher coaches poll ranking, more exciting wins, and even a chance at a G-MAC championship title. But, for that to happen, Coach Smith knows that the needed improvements are more than just in skill.
“We need to become more consistent in all aspects of our game both physically and mentally,” said Smith.
If this season is any indicator, the Cedarville women will be up to the challenge. They’ve tasted the sweetness of victory, now it’s time to go for even more. Looking at this upcoming offseason, Goff expressed as such.
“I know each of us are eager for some more wins. And are going to give it all we got now so we can reap the benefits later,” Goff said.
Tim Smith is a junior Biblical Studies major and staff writer for Cedars. He loves football, 3 Musketeers candy and primarily speaking in movie quotes.