Tiger Volleyball team celebrates season

Published 1:14 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Luverne High School Lady Tigers Volleyball team celebrated their achievements at the annual banquet held at the Luverne Church of Christ Fellowship Hall on January 11. The event brought together players, coaches and families to honor the dedication and hard work displayed throughout the 2023 season.

Coach Greg Evans expressed pride in every single player regarding their improvement over the course of the season and emphasized their dedication and openness to coaching.

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“I know that may sound crazy but it is the truth,” Evans said. “On every team.These girls, outside of just a few, have not had the chance to play any competitive volleyball before entering seventh grade. So they came in very inexperienced in all aspects of the game and it was up to us coaches to start from the very basic fundamentals and help them develop their skills. Every player thoroughly wanted to get better and they were open to strong coaching. Every team seemed to “gel” more as the season progressed.”

Appreciation certificates were awarded to the girls acknowledging their commitment to the team. The ceremony recognized the contributions of the junior high, junior varsity (JV), and varsity teams and showcased the 2023 statistics.

Kayleigh McCreary led the junior high team in aces with 38, while AJ Tomlin contributed 29 total aces.

The JV team ended the season with 57 aces by Riley Flynn and Kaylee Evans and Chelsea Owens both had 33 aces each. Chelsea Owens also led the team with 33 kills.

The varsity team, led by Rashiya Berry with 65 aces, finished the season with an 11-13 record, securing the position of area runners-up. Kaylee Frazier had 89 kills. Finley Marchand contributed 86 kills, and Zyan Peterson made an impact with 147 kills and 91 blocks during the season.

Senior Zyan Peterson, a key contributor to the team’s success, shared her sentiments about playing her last high school volleyball game. Despite the sadness of the moment, she expressed gratitude for the lessons learned from her coaches.

“My senior volleyball season was the best of all seasons,” Peterson said. “This past volleyball season we made it further in the regional tournament than Luverne ever has and history was made. It’s exciting to be a part of the history of the Luverne High School volleyball program.”

Coming in runner-up qualified the team for regionals in Montgomery. Although they fell short in the second regional match against Washington County, who eventually finished third in the state, the Lady Tigers reached the “Sweet 16.”

The standout moment of the 2023 season for Coach Evans was the varsity team’s historic achievement at regionals. Despite losing the first set, the Lady Tigers rallied and won the next three sets to advance to the “Sweet 16.” This marked the first time a Luverne volleyball team had reached such heights, according to AHSAA records.

Coach Lainey Eiland (assistant coach) serves as a valuable resource to Evans and to the players.

“I am so glad I get to coach beside someone that I also thought a lot of when I taught her as a student in my class,” Evans said. “We are a lot alike which makes it so easy to get things done as a coaching staff. It seems we are always on the same page.”

Evans, who is also the head basketball coach and teaches 11th and 12th grade math, said that some of the most special moments have been thanks to getting to coach his daughter Kaylee who is in eighth grade.

When asked about his proudest moment of the season, Coach Evans simply cited the collective effort of the team. He acknowledged the support from the administration, parents, and his family, highlighting the collaborative effort that propelled the program forward.

Three years into coaching volleyball, Evans has embraced the challenges and joys of the sport, emphasizing the personal growth of the players beyond the volleyball court.

“I am so happy that I said yes to coaching volleyball when Principal Kilpatrick approached me about coaching volleyball,” Evans said. “With football and baseball serving only as my coaching background, I had no idea how to coach this sport because I obviously did not play. But I have learned a lot and have grown to love coaching volleyball. You definitely have to learn things that are specific to the sport with coaching , but at the same time, much like in football or baseball, you end up coaching the player as a person as opposed to a volleyball player. That is what I hope our athletes can take away from playing….that they became a better person overall, always learning how to be a great teammate, and learning how to be hard working individuals in any area of their lives.”

Looking ahead to the fall 2024 season, Coach Evans emphasized the importance of building on the momentum gained during the previous season. He cautioned against complacency and stressed that success requires ongoing effort and dedication.

“We need to use this past season’s success as a catapult for the fall 2024 season,” Evans said. “However, we cannot just come in with the mindset that what we accomplished last year will enable us to repeat our 2023 achievements. Life doesn’t work that way. Hard work has been the common denominator behind our success, and it will continue to be, both on and off the court.”