ORU Volleyball is back and the Golden Eagles are off to an excellent start in pursuit of a Southland Conference Championship.
After a runner-up finish in last year’s conference tournament, the team is determined to finish the job they started last season.
“The mentality with my returning players is unfinished business,” said Sheera Sirola, head coach of the team. “We are coming back strong. They are all playing for one thing, to win the conference this year and not get second.”
ORU is bringing back eight players from last year’s team, including seniors Bruna Silva, Jessica Pancratz, and Laura Taylor, who were all named to the Southland Conference preseason first team.
Silva led the conference in digs last year, averaging 5.66 per set, on her way to SLC Libero of the Year honors. Silva opened the season strong by earning SLC player of the week on September 9, for her excellent play at the UTEP Tournament.
Pancratz led the Southland Conference in blocks last year with 1.36 blocks per set.
Taylor, who was named a captain for this year’s squad, averaged almost 12 assists per game last year.
“She’s basically running the show,” Sirola said. “She’s the one that gets the ball. She’s the one that distributes the ball. She is the one that’s going to run the show and call the shots.”
Taylor comes into the season needing 1,039 assists to get her name in the ORU record books for the most career assists in school history. She comes into the season averaging over 967 per year.
Sirola said the preseason recognition is important to the team.
“It means [everything] to me, it means [everything] to the kids,” Sirola said. “They know that other teams actually acknowledge they’re good. We have a powerhouse coming back.”
The Golden Eagles added six new players during the offseason, including Sara Pope, a transfer from Albany who is originally from Jenks.
Pope made an impact right away for ORU during the TSU Invitational. The junior averaged over four and a half kills per set, on her way to SLC Player of the Week honors.
Sirola said that Pope is a great addition to the team.
“We have an additional person that is older that already knows the system; that is comfortable with the players. That is a big, big player coming in.”
ORU was picked to finish second in the conference in the Southland Conference Preseason Volleyball poll. Sirola said that the ranking means the team needs to work harder and wait until the postseason to prove they can win the conference.
The Golden Eagles open their conference season by facing three new teams to the conference in their first three games.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Sirola said. “With new people in a conference you never know what to expect. They’re probably nervous just like we are.”
“No matter who they have we just have to play our game. And we have to basically cut down our errors and be consistent.”
ORU opened the season with two tournament wins. The first came at the TSU Invitational, where the team didn’t lose a set during the whole weekend. The second was the El Paso Sports Commission Invitational, giving ORU two tournament wins in two weeks.
ORU split their two games in their third and final non-conference tournament, putting ORU’s record at 8-2 going into their Southland Conference season.