Falcons' Volleyball Soars To New Heights in 2011
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with Ben Bovenzi Gomessiah.com Reporter
While this reality was surely a challenge to process- the Falcons came within one victory of receiveing an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament- 2011 will remembered most as one of the most prolific seasons in program history.
Along the way to posting a program-best 25-6 overall record, Messiah went undefeated in the Commonwealth Conference during the regular season (7-0) before advancing to the program's first conference championship. Though the Falcons fell to the Dutchmen of Lebanon Valley, the team's first-ever hosting of the conference tournament is sure to be cherished.
Other special moments of the season included senior Megan Wise collecting her 1,000 career dig and sophomore Jess Geib setting a career-high with 51 assists in a single game. Additionally, junior Lauren Rees ended her junior year just 28 kills short of a 1,000 in her career, as she collcted 386 kills in 2011.
Just last week, too, the Commonwealth recognized Wise, Geib, Rees, and junior Lindsay King with All-Commonwealth selections. Head coach Judi Tobias was named Coach of the Year.
""We had such an awesome season (in 2011)," said Wise, a three-year libero for the Falcons. "This season was filled with big accomplishments and even some record-breaking moments that are a true testament to how hard we worked. Losing in the (Commonwealth) championship was not how we wanted it to end, but what I'll remember is the silent gym afterwards when two rival teams came together to pray and glorify God for having the opportunity to play volleyball for one more night."
Wise, who ends her career with 1,401 career digs, is referring to the Messiah tradition of the Falcons asking each opponent to join hands with them after each match, regardless of the result. This is not always an easy task, not when teams are furiously trying to defeat each other with mighty blocks and thunderous kills. It certainly wasn't easy on the night of the Commonwealth finals, either, after Messiah dropped a hard-fought game 0-3 to LVC (24-26, 21-25, 23-25).
Neverthless, Tobias sent Geib to ask the Dutchmen to join the Falcons on the court together. As Geib led the prayer, no other sound could be heard in Brubaker Auditorium.
"We don't pray for victory (before the game)," said Geib. "We pray to honor God with our efforts and our attitudes, and we pray for blessings on the other team."
"Our passion for volleyball unites us in an opportunity to use the talents God has given us- win or lose," added Wise. "That's what we've tried to do this year- to push each other to be better each day, and to love each other on and off the court."
A quiet leader, Wise is one of a group of seniors that will graduate from a team that she describes as 15 "sisters." After completing her degree in Health and Physical Education, Wise hopes to work as an elementary phsyical education instructor.
Joining Wise in graduation this year will be classmates Lauren Lathrop, Brittany Salloum, and Emily Hall.
Lathrop, a four-year defensive specialist for Messiah, collected 729 digs in career. Her teammates describe her having a positive attitude that never ceased to inspire those around her. After completing her degrees in Elementary Education, she plans to teach.
Salloum, another defensive specialist, plans to graduate with a degree in Business Administration before working in business. She leaves behind her accomplishments as a determined leader with a lethal serve. She collected 334 digs and 64 service aces in her career.
Hall, an Athletic Training major, hopes to move into graduate school for nursing after graduation. A four year outside hitter for Messiah, she was a strong and dominant player around the net for the Falcons, as she ends her career with 527 kills and 175 blocks.
"This season was amazing," said Hall, reflecting on the team's achievements in 2011. "We played at a higher level than ever before. Playing with girls that love not just volleyball, but God, has been a great experience. My teammates and coaches taught me so much about volleyball and how to grow as a player. But they also helped me grow as a Christian, helping me to truly put Christ at the center of everything. That will impact my life forever."
As the Falcons will reflect on this season, as well as miss those who move off the court and into the bleachers, they will also look forward to more success in the future.
"I'm proud to have been a part of the history this year," said Rees, an imposing hitter who will be a senior in 2012. "We set out with a big list of goals and achieved all but one- being Commonwealth champs. Our returners have already started to work towards that goal for next year.
"We were very driven this season, and we loved every minute of it," she added. "And we're excited to get back to work for next season."