Colorado Christian University Volleyball is all of a sudden used to bigger and better.
For three-straight years, they've shattered expectations, nicely positioning themselves among the best of the best in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Last year, the squad scrapped their way into the post-season, earning CCU's first-ever bid into the NCAA Tournament in the sport.
The league is taking notice. When it came time to rank the RMAC's 14 schools, coaches picked Christian to finish 5th overall this year.
Of course, it hasn't always been this way.
Flashback to 2009, when a slumping Cougar squad managed just five wins – their second best in six seasons. It was a painful state of affairs for a program who throughout the 90s boasted 20-win season after 20-win season.
Fortunately, the slump would come to a halt in 2010 with the hiring of Head Coach Verlyn Rosenthal. Though he hadn't yet coached in the college ranks, Rosenthal was a former high school coach with a spectacular record for winning on the big stage. That year, he led the Cougars to an 18-15 record. In 2011, the squad went 20-19. Last year, CCU made a dramatic return to the RMAC playoffs (their first since 1999), knocking off higher-seeded Metro State on the Roadrunners' home floor to advance to the final four.
So now, on the verge of a new year, Christian players – only used to winning – prepare with eagerness and anticipation. Among them, Taylor Sturms, an AVCA All-American with a limitless ceiling and a bottomless work ethic. For her exceptional efforts last year, Sturms was named to the 2013 Preseason All-Conference team.
Also returning to the 2013 squad is All-RMAC middle Ali Weber – one of only three juniors on a young and hungry squad. Collectively, they've been battling one another for a little more than a week now. For a summer before that, they battled themselves.
"I am thrilled to see the benefits of their hard work this summer showing up in our practice gym," remarked Rosenthal on his team's progress so far. "It's definitely hard for the girls to train on their own over the summer months. They put in the hours, though, and I am proud of the culture that the team has embraced."
Looking ahead, Rosenthal and his squad know their worth in the conference goes only as far as what they accomplish on the court.
"Based on RMAC history, I was not surprised to be voted around five," Rosenthal continued. "The nice part is that, ultimately, this gets decided on the court. We get to earn it. That's the best way."
And so, if history is really an indicator, the Cougar squad will do just that. Earn it. Bigger and better is what this group has done since day one. Bigger and better from this squad – carefully constructed from top to bottom with stand-out players – means fans had better strap in.
It's easy to get caught up in the hype. Leave it to a coach to bring us back to reality.
"I expect them to give it all every play, every day. The result of that we will be ok with. At the end of the day, and at the end of the season, I want to be able to say that we had more fun, won more games, and most importantly, were a positive witness for Christ."
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