By: Taylor Browne/GCU Staff
It was a winning season to say the least.
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Volleyball team set high standards for themselves and the future of their season early on. After a first-place finish at their season-opening home tournament, they continued their winning streak with a first-place finish at the Las Vegas Invitational, their third straight Mountain West Volleyball Conference title, and a first-ever NCVF National Championship title.
The Lopes attested that they were the team to beat in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF).
“Our goals coming into the year encompassed what (GCU) Club Sports is about and what we were trying to build,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Kristine Naber. “We hit our goal on growth and building the program’s culture from the start. We had eight returners from the previous year who played a big role in this phenomenal culture.”
While the program’s success started with Naber’s vision for the program, it was also benefitted by the student-leaders.
“Our student-leaders did a great job leading the group, then also understanding my vision for the program and getting on board,” said Naber. “All the girls tag-teamed responsibilities that I knew they could get done.”
Versatility and drive was a key facet of the team’s success the entire season.
“We are creating reputations on all teams in the program that are competitive and supportive to one another,” said Naber. “I do see where the program is growing in all areas, but specifically in skill and development in competition.”
Their winning season, however, was not easy to achieve.
“Looking back at the Mountain West Volleyball Conference, that was the hardest we ever had to compete for that title,” said Naber. “We got pressed, and it was neat to see the girls could respond in a situation that they have never been in.”
The Lopes took one set, one game, one tournament at a time to lead them to nationals.
“I don’t think anyone expected to come out with a national trophy,” said Naber. “Watching the girls walk into that championship match was the coolest moment. When you talk about getting a good experience, those 12 got a great experience. They were always ‘two feet in’.
Lopes’ junior setter Olivia Brunt saw her GCU Women’s Club Volleyball career come full circle in Colorado, since she was one of the ladies on the court celebrating the title after helping build the program from the start.
“I feel very humbled,” said Brunt. “We’ve always had a really good program, but I don’t think we could have won a title unless it was these girls this year. I’m proud to finish strong this way.”
“The beauty of club sports is you don’t go out finding these kids,” said Naber. “They find you. My job is to cultivate a team that gets along and then run with it.”