By Andrew Gogerty
ANKENY, Iowa—The 2019 Faith Eagles women's volleyball season will officially go down in the record books as a season to remember. No other volleyball team in school history has gone through an entire season without a single "home" game until now.
The Eagles were displaced from their true home court in the Nettleton Center from the day athletes arrived back in mid-August. Practicing and playing games at nearby Ankeny Christian Academy was supposed to be a temporary solution until the gymnasium floor replacement was finished. The Eagles eagerly anticipated their home debut on their new court during Homecoming Weekend. After further delays with construction, that date was moved to Monday, September 23, with a match against Grinnell.
The evening of September 23, all the patience and endurance of a tough start to the season was set to pay off, with a shiny new gym floor, all decked out in new Eagles graphics. But God had other plans.
After both teams took the court for warmups, it was determined that the new gym floor finish was too slippery to play on, and the decision was made to move the game down the street to Ankeny Christian Academy. As it turned out, that was the first and final time the 2019 Eagles volleyball team would step foot on their own home court. Due to issues with the curing of the gym floor finish, no official matches were played in the Nettleton Center during the 2019 season.
As the number of non-home games piled up for the Eagles, so did the losses. The combination of an extremely young team, a brutal schedule filled with higher-level opponents, and the lack of a true home court took its toll on the win/loss column. Through it all, the Eagles played with joy. In a season when most teams would have sulked, complained, and become bitter, this Faith Eagles volleyball team will go down in the record books as one of the all-time greats in terms of heart, character, and perseverance in the midst of trials.
Alicia Smith is this year's team captain for the Eagles. The junior outside hitter is one of only five non-freshmen on the roster. She explained how the team rallied together:
"Our coaches have emphasized maintaining a good testimony through it, and how can we use it and grow from it," said Alicia. "It has been disappointing and challenging with scheduling, but we know people are watching us to see how we respond to this. I've seen different girls interact with people who ask, and they say 'it is what it is, but we're making it work,' and that's been really encouraging. It's been a great opportunity for us to be a good testimony to other people."
With such a young team, and with a challenging schedule, it would have been easy for bitterness and bad attitudes to set in. Smith says the demeanor of this year's freshmen class has played a big role in team unity and not allowing circumstances to dictate attitudes.
"I think the personalities of the freshmen are really easy-going," said Smith. "They haven't had a very hard time with it. They kind of just go with the flow, so that's been really helpful."
Faith played its final "home game" of the season Tuesday night against Union College at Ankeny Christian Academy and went out on top, defeating the Warriors three sets to one.
The Eagles dominated the first set, 25-14, behind 10 kills from the Faith front line. After losing the second set, 25-21, Faith rallied for a 25-16 win in set three.
Set number four showed the determination and character the Eagles volleyball team will be remembered for in this historic season. After falling behind, 16-8, Faith responded with an 11-3 run to tie the set at 19 each, mostly behind the play of freshmen hitters who had four kills in the rally (two from Amanda Larson, and two from Anissa Greiner). Union was one point away from taking the set before the Eagles finished the game with four kills to seal the victory.
It was a solid, all-around team effort for the Eagles. Bekah Smith led the way with 14 points, followed by Alicia Smith with 12, Amanda Larson with 11.5, Anissa Greiner with 9, Makenna Laib with 6, Rachel Kleczka with 3.5, Stephanie Hemsworth with 2, and Emmy Caves and Morgan Stephens with 1.
The win over Union was a joyful way to end the final "home game" during a season full of challenges. It was a game that saw the Eagles overcome adversity with a positive attitude and great testimony. It was a victory in a year when victories have been hard to come by.
The 2019 Faith Eagles volleyball team will not go down in history as the team with the most wins, but they should be remembered in history as the team with the greatest character. "Happy are those who remain faithful under trials."