The GCC volleyball team is looking to defend their crown following winning the Division II National Championship last year in Phoenix. The Lady Gauchos defeated Parkland in 5 sets to cap off what was an amazing season full of twists and turns, beating the heavy favorites in the final game of the season.
The squad is led by Coach Lisa Stuck, NJCAA District I Coach of the Year, and NJCAA Coach of the Tournament last year. She coached the Gauchos to just 13-13 heading into the playoffs, before they turned the tables at the right time. “Last year was a Cinderella Story and I’m so very proud of the way we battled throughout the Regional Playoffs and at the National Tournament,” said Stuck. “Not having that pressure to win, was something that helped us.” Speaking of pressure, despite being underdogs in the latter parts of last season, the Lady Gauchos will now have eyes on them every step of the way. “There is always pressure when you win a National Championship. As a coaching staff, we have tried to approach this year with humility and a clean slate,” said Stuck. “I think our team understands how much work goes into getting to that pinnacle and that will obviously help this year.”
But a championship will not come without a price, especially at the JuCo level. The team will lose its sophomore class from last year, the class that was half of the equation towards a national title. Two key players who will be missed include Kourtney Beck and Kelsey Touvell, who last year were team leaders in kills and digs, respectively. “We will miss Kourtney and Kelsey as well as the rest of our sophomore class. This is something we have to prepare for every year,” said Stuck.
So who are the new leaders for the Lady Gauchos this season? Coach Stuck insists that the whole team is capable of performing on a high level. “We had several freshmen who played significant roles for us last year and they are prepared to step up this year as well,” said Stuck. “Sydney Bunker, Haley Christiansen, Misha McDowell, Kenzey Beck, Kayla Dallmann, and Carli Bauer all played significant amounts last year and we will look to all them to set the tone for this year.” Speaking to the sophomores on the team, one statement was constant, humility. “I think it’s important that we all stay humble and dedicated,” said Bunker. “We need to understand the importance of every game, because every team is aiming for us. We can never let down on our intensity and we always need to stay together as a team.”
The Lady Gauchos took in some new recruits this year, hoping to continue the tradition the team established last season. Of these new team members include Tara Melton (Cactus), Megan Rogers (Centennial), and Samantha Demoro (Liberty). “It is definitely nerve wracking joining a team who has just basically done the impossible,” said Demoro. “But I am beyond excited to be a part of this team and be a part of the success to come.” Coach Stuck expressed the strength the team has following the new additions to the team, and stated that they should be picking up right where they left off last year. “We have a strong freshman class,” said Stuck. “They will provide us with depth in certain positions and will be potential contributors.”
Coach Stuck also stressed her notion that if what they did last year worked, they why try to fix it? “I don’t think there is much of a shift in mentality, other than we know teams will be looking to beat us,” said Stuck. “However, we’ve been in that situation before and I think my players have the right mindset.”
And that mindset seems to have been working so far this season, since as of Sept 3, the Lady Gauchos sit at 3-0 to begin their season, picking up victories against Mesa, Arizona Western, and Chandler-Gilbert. Their next few games include a three day trip to Scottsdale this Friday to participate in the Scottsdale CC Invitational.