ANKENY, Iowa—It has been a stormy season for the Faith volleyball team, but there is a rainbow on the horizon.
Despite a loss to Iowa Wesleyan Tuesday night, which dropped the Eagles to 1-11, the continued growth of junior outside hitters Alicia Smith and Bekah Smith, and the rapid development of freshmen hitters Anissa Greiner, Rachel Kleczka, and Amanda Larson gives Coach Lanny Nihart optimism for the rest of this season, and the future of the program.
"Alicia and Bekah are the leaders as juniors," said Nihart. "Both have attained NCCAA All-Region, MCCC All-Conference, and ACCA All-American status. They provide our team with a solid base to develop our front row play. Alicia provides us athleticism and confidence at the outside position. Bekah can be a force at the middle hitter position. Both Alicia and Bekah play all around, increasing the pressure placed on their shoulders."
The veteran Smiths have some much-needed help on the front lines this year with the addition of several talented freshmen hitters.
"The trio of freshmen (Rachel, Amanda, and Anissa) has provided a much-needed influx of talent," said Nihart. "Rachel and Anissa have filled in the much-needed position of middle hitter. Amanda gives us a threat at the right side hitter spot. Each of the young ladies has done a great job of adjusting to the collegiate level of play from high school. In addition to cementing their positions, we have at times experimented, moving Anissa to the outside, Amanda to the middle, and Rachel to the right side."
The Eagles have been forced to practice and play on a local high school's court due to gymnasium renovations at Faith, which means the women haven't had a true home game yet this season. A frontloaded schedule against larger schools has made for tough sledding. Add to that an extremely young roster, and you have a recipe for trouble. But the talented front line provides a solid foundation and unlimited potential for the future.
When asked about the impact the trio of freshman hitters has had on his program, and on its future, Coach Nihart describes the high expectations he has placed on them.
"We have demanded a tremendous amount of practice and match intensity, as well as maturing mentally," said Nihart. "Much of the expectation placed on them would not normally be placed if we had additional upperclassmen available. The trio will certainly stabilize our program in the future at the frontcourt position."