By Andrew Preston
The 2016-17 Lady Trojans Volleyball season ended with a four set loss against the Ursuline Lady Arrows in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) on Nov. 17.
The end of the season not only marks the end competition, but also the end of lone senior Katelyn Atkinson’s career.
“She’s always been a great competitor. She’s improved each year in many ways. She improved this year, but the players around her were better, so we didn’t depend on her quite so much,” said Jamie Crowley, head coach.
Atkinson matured during her junior to become the player she is, Crowley said. She developed better relationships with coaches and teammates.
“You don’t replace someone like her, it’s a big hole to fill,” said Crowley, “I’d like to see other players step up and see this as an opportunity for them to ‘takeover.’ It’s not going to be one player; it’s got to be every single player to hide that kind of offensive production.”
Atkinson served as team captain for the previous three seasons.
“She did it all. She passed, she set, she hit, she blocked, she played multiple positions,” said Crowley, “We don’t have a player that can do that many things. We can’t replace her.”
“As captain I tried to lead by example more than anything, hoping the team would follow,” said Katelyn Atkinson, “As captain I was proudest probably when we played Cedarville at home and won. They are always a tough opponent and the team went out and played very well together.”
Atkinson finished her career as the Trevecca all-time kills leader with 1,705, second most in G-MAC history. She had 150 assists, 118 service aces, 1294 digs, and 217 blocks as a four-year player for the Lady Trojans.
“It is exciting to get to break a record held for so long, but I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of my teammates over the years. I have enjoyed getting to play with all the teammates I have had, and hope that the team next season will continue that legacy, said Atkinson.
The Lady Trojans 16-13 (8-2 G-MAC) enjoyed several bouts of success during the regular season including a seven game winning streak.
“We ran the gamut with wins at home,” said Crowley.
The Lady Trojans went 10-2 at home this season, something Crowley credits to the home crowd.
“Your blood, sweat and tears are ingrained in that wood floor. You have a little more pride at home, less distractions, more support, and especially with the support of the Moore Maniacs and Jared Caperton,” said Crowley.
The Lady Trojans haven’t completed their freshman signing class for next season, but Crowley is hopeful she can bring in some top talent.
“We’ve signed two early in the signing period, there’s still some more work to be done, time will tell with that,” said Crowley.
The Lady Trojans were defeated (24-26, 25-23, 16-25, 18-25) in the quarterfinals of the G-MAC tournament.
“We weren’t at our best, and (Ursuline) played like a team, they played hungry. They were better than us that day. We had more talent than that team, but they were hungrier,” said Crowley.
“Ursuline just played better than us. I think if we had come in really focused on that game instead of thinking ahead, we could have won,” added Atkinson.
Last season the Lady Trojans won the G-MAC tournament and competed in the NCAA D-II tournament as an automatic qualifier.
Coach Crowley defined her team losing this season in the tournament as a ‘bullseye on your back’.
“When you’re the underdog you have to give your best performance. You’re hungrier, you more passionate, you have to be,” said Crowley.
Crowley believes her team came into the G-MAC tournament expecting to win, allowing them to be vulnerable.
“They (Ursuline) didn’t take it for granted. Whereas we’d been there done that and maybe we thought we had the easy path, and that thought caused us to under-perform,” said Crowley.
Cedarville University went on to defeat Davis & Elkins in the G-MAC championship game, earning their way into the NCAA D-II tournament for the first time.
“It’s easier to be on top and it’s even harder to stay there because everyone is gunning for you,” said Crowley, “One little misstep when you’re at the top and you’re going down.”
Although Atkinson and the Lady Trojans season ended early, Crowley believes her team can be competitive next season.
“We may have peaked a little bit early, but I am proud of our team this year,” said Crowley, “The last game doesn’t define us, we are already looking forward to next season.”