The Jamestown Community College women's volleyball team showed it has strength in lack of numbers.
Last weekend the Jayhawks went to the NJCAA Region 3 Division III Tournament with only seven players and came home with the title.
JCC lost only two games in pool play, its first two to Erie CC, and the second-seeded Jayhawks swept three games in the semifinals and three more in the finals.
Jamestown Community College women’s volleyball coach Ashley Lund sets the ball during a recent practice as her Jayhawks prepare to play in the NJCAA Division III National Tournament next week.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
''They (Erie) were the seventh seed and to come out of the gate and to lose two to them and come back and win one and to expect them to play the way they did the rest of the day, I didn't think (it could happen),'' coach Ashley Lund said.
And what were her thoughts after the first two pool play losses?
''It's just not our day,'' she said. ''Today is not our day and we had a good run.''
Suddenly the run continued and the Jayhawks are headed to the national tournament in Minnesota next week.
''I think it was a little bit of a wake-up call,'' Lund said about the opening two losses. ''Like hey, the end of the season is knocking on our door right now and if we don't step it up, we're done, that's it.''
But she added Sunday night after the team returned home, ''They came to play today.''
The Jayhawks, even though there weren't many, came to play all season. Lund, a former JCC player, had been the head coach for six seasons when she missed 2011 while on a maternity leave. When she returned for 2012, there were only seven players awaiting her - sophomores Anna Nietupski, Kelsey Kyser and Brittany Brace, and freshmen Kali Beardsley, Alysha Frisch-LoPiano, Christina Rauh and Aricca Lis. So did she ever imagine they could win a regional championship?
''I mean it's always a possibility and I always think that regionals are a chance for us, but with seven players in this region and how tough it is, I didn't necessarily think we could do it,'' Lund admitted.
''She really came back behind the 8-ball because she didn't have her athletes that she had recruited, so she really came into 'Here's what I have, let's do it,'' said Kathy Stedman, who coached women's volleyball at JCC for 18 seasons and made five straight trips to the national tournament. ''And she has that kind of mindset. She's not a coach who goes out there and gives you a whole bunch of excuses about why she can't win. She just goes out and 'This is what I have and this is what we'll do' and then she wins.''
And that's what Lund told opposing coaches when they questioned the size of her squad.
''They asked why I had such a small team and I just said this is what I've ended up with, this is my team,'' she said. ''And I couldn't ask for a better group of seven. They're hard working. I don't have to worry about them. I know when they go to warm up, they're warming up. They're not screwing around.''
Lund noted that having only seven in a match is somewhat of an advantage.
''It is easy because you don't have to worry about the subbing, but my one sub, when she went in she did her job,'' she said. ''The six that are on the floor most of the time, they knew how to work with each other. They knew every move that the other person was going to make because they've been on the floor that much together. They didn't have to second guess what somebody else was doing. They knew.''
But not only is the Jayhawks' roster small, but the team is also small in stature. The tallest player is Brace at 6 feet.
''We're small in numbers and we're small in size,'' Lund said. ''We're not a big team and we're not a powerhouse. We just do things right. They listen and when (assistant coach) Lauren (Beichner) and I tell them to do things or change things, they do it and they see the results so they keep doing it.''
When asked if it is more surprising that the team had success despite lack of numbers or lack of size, Stedman said, ''Both. They're just a scrappy team. They're just great athletes.''
And with only seven players, an injury could have been devastating. So how many did the Jayhawks have?
''We didn't have any,'' Lund said. ''That is amazing, for them to fight through this year and all those games and not to come up with an injury was incredible.''
With only seven players, it could have been difficult to practice, but Lund and Beichner also overcame that.
''Coach and I practiced a lot,'' Lund said. ''We played with them a lot. We'd bring some former players in to play and some friends. We'd get whoever we could to scrimmage.''
But she noted there weren't many scrimmages.
''A lot of it was just drills,'' Lund said. ''Though that's boring and meticulous, it works.''
It also makes an impact to see the coaches doing what the players are asked to do.
''I think that sinks in a little bit when Coach is throwing herself on the floor or I'm making a play,'' Lund said. ''They're like, 'They can actually play.' I think that shows them it's not just us saying stuff to them and acting like we know it. It kind of shows we've been there and we know what we have to do.''
Stedman is not surprised her former player pulled it off and won a berth in the national tournament.
''Number one, she's an incredible person and an exceptional coach,'' she said. ''And she's come through this program, so she knows what's it's like to be competitive and how to win and she knows how to get the best out of each kid that she had so that's why she's succeeded. It's a small group, but she pulled everything that they had to give her out there and they win.''
She added, ''I think personalities and athletic talent meshed with her style. They peaked right at the right time.''
Stedman had to coach a squad of seven once. And how did they do?
''That's when we were struggling to get out of the region,'' she said with a smile.
The 2012 Jayhawks are out of the region and will be heading to Minnesota next week to make JCC's seventh appearance in the national tournament.
''It's a great story, it really is,'' Lund said. ''Seven girls taking regional finals in Region 3 out of 19 teams.''