Lopes’ upcoming grads pass down competitive mentality
By: Julie Laugel/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
“This group is the cornerstone of what Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Volleyball is all about.”
From winning a national championship early on, to a modified season trying to find competition wherever they could, the ‘group’ Lopes’ Head Coach Kris Naber references – seniors Angie Castaneda, Lauren Damour, Mollee Picchione, Anna Sperbeck and Tori Whitcomb – maintained a competitive culture throughout their time in the program.
“Because we were so young when we won nationals, it made us connect better and trust each other more throughout these last couple years,” said Picchione. “It gave us the confidence that our program means something and can do well, and we wanted to hold up to that.”
While the program had previously been successful with multiple Mountain West Volleyball Conference titles, the national championship win sparked a competitive mindset on the team and an excitement around club sports.
“Once we won that national championship, GCU Club Volleyball has never looked back,” said Naber. “Even with cancellations last year and the protocols we’ve had to follow this year, this group has been here every practice, been at matches, helped plan things, and helped communicate things outside of the court.”
The five seniors not only made an impact through their dedication on the court, but also acted as student leaders by mentoring incoming athletes.
“The experience helped us to move forward faster, be more competitive and build a sense of community, and we wanted to share it with whoever else joined and put that competitiveness into the people that are going to stay even after us,” said Whitcomb.
“Something that we want to carry forward as student leaders is how the girls trust us and are comfortable to talk to us if something is wrong,” added Castaneda.
While the seniors will move on, their influence and legacies will remain.
“Club sports is about getting people in the program and giving them a good experience, and part of what those girls created was not only that, but a winning culture,” said Naber. “We’re going to have to rebuild that part a little bit. The culture’s been set, the foundation’s been set, and now we need to rebuild that core group that knows what the expectations are.”
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