The Brescia University volleyball team began the 2019 season strong, as they tied the best start in program history by rolling to a 7-1 record before dropping their second match to in-state rival Georgetown College last week.
The Lady Bearcats swept their competition in late August at the Mid-South Cross Over in Bowling Green — defeating Blue Mountain, Shawnee State, Pikeville and Bethel — to secure their spot in the record books.
After losing to Georgetown 0-3 (16-25, 23-25, 20-25) on Thursday, first-year head coach John Schmidt III looks for his team to return to their winning ways before heading into conference action.
“Since day one we’ve been emphasizing growth and (Thursday) was definitely a great learning opportunity for us,” he said.
Schmidt’s last stint at the NAIA level was in 1998. His most recent position was at NCAA Division 1 program Belmont University, where he was the assistant coach.
He admits that it will take him some time to familiarize himself with the conference, but preparations have long since been underway. The Lady Bearcats have four more non-conference matches that they intend to use to propel them to a run at the conference title.
“We definitely don’t want to play straight up with anyone because of our size,” he said. “We have to combat our opponents’ size with mobility, connection and movement on offense.”
Current senior and former Owensboro Catholic standout Natalie Jones leads the team in kills with 88 on the season. Jones led the Aces to a 35-9 record and played a pivotal role in their deep run at the KHSAA state tournament in 2015.
“Her past success is proof that she is an unbelievable player,” Schmidt said. “Because of it, she’s starting to get a target on her back. We really want to bolster her game more and move her around on the court where teams will have a difficult time finding her. It’s been a pleasure to see her grow.”
The roster features nine Kentucky athletes surrounded by other regional and national talent. Trinity High School graduate Savannah Aull accompanies Jones as the only two Daviess County natives in the program.
Other stat leaders include Brittney Just with 251 assists, Shelby Hardison with 21 blocks and Kristin Logsdon with 127 digs.
Schmidt attributes much of their recent success to their willingness to grow.
“We have some good leadership, several players have stepped up, especially on the court,” he said. “Our innovative and dynamic approach is new to these players but they are adjusting well.”
The Lady Bearcats return to action Saturday at 10 a.m. when they host Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in their annual Bearcat Challenge at the Moore Center. Bresica will finish up their day at 3 p.m. against conference foe Midway University.
“We are taking things one day at a time,” Schmidt said. “We are still working on understanding what it takes to be a champion. Nothing compares to the national championship atmosphere, and that’s something we talk about daily.”