Southern Nazarene received the official word last week that it had officially reached active status as a member of the NCAA.
And among the biggest implications of that status is: playing in the postseason.
The Crimson Storm volleyball team is more than just a little ready for the opportunity, according to head coach Kevin Ingram, who is entering his 14th season at the helm in Bethany.
“That’s something we’ve been waiting to do for three years,” Ingram said. “Not being able to go and play in the conference tournament has not been something we’ve enjoyed.
“Especially when we would have qualified both of the last two years to get in. We would have been one of the top teams to get in and last year we would have been second.”
SNU had one of its best seasons in school history in 2013, finishing with a record of 27-12 and 12-2 in Great American Conference play.
The Crimson Storm was also well represented with postseason accolades. Jamie Hope, the GAC Defensive Player of the Year, and Taylor Jacobs made the All-GAC first team, and four others received a conference nod. Hope and Jacobs were also recognized by the NCCAA as All-Americans.
And although the program lost some valuable players from last year’s team (Hope, Kira Roberts and Kaitlyn Belanger), it returns a great nucleus.
“We’ll have a big group of seniors that I’ve had for three or four years now,” Ingram said. “Some of those seniors are fifth-year seniors because we redshirted them in the process of the NCAA transition so that we could have those players eligible in the first year of the NCAA.
Jacobs is one of five seniors on the team that is loaded with upperclassmen. Kaylee Platt and Emily Dick also return, following a solid season in 2013.
And this team wants to build on the journey it took last year, a trek that involved an appearance in the NCCAA championship tournament, but was cut short before the conference tournament.
“They’re highly motivated to repeat, in the sense of the kind of season that they had last year. And we hope to get ourselves in a good position going into that conference tournament and to give ourselves a chance.”
SNU competes in two festivals to open the season. The Crimson Storm will be on the road at the St. Mary’s/Hilltopper Classic in San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 5 and 6, and at the South Central Classic in Durant on Sept. 12 and 13.
The first home match will be on Tuesday, Sept. 16, as the Storm host Midwestern State in Sawyer Center at 6 p.m.
[Update: The Crimson Storm was tabbed third in the GAC preseason coaches poll.]