With a win against Green River Community College Nov. 3, the Pierce College volleyball team moved into a two-way tie with Lower Columbia for fourth place and the last playoff spot in the Western Division of the NWAACC.
The recent win is part of a late season burst from the Raiders, which included three non-league wins against Clark, Chemeketa and Clackamas at the Dorian Harris Halloween Classic tournament in Gresham, Ore.
Pierce’s last game of the season is actually against Lower Columbia and could decide the Raiders’ playoff fate.
This season has been one of challenge and change as the team implemented a new system under first-year Head Coach Doug Carlson. The last second loss of a top recruit at setter also forced some players to find new roles on the court.
“Our setter, Lauren Komarzec is not even a setter,” outside hitter Nissa McCormack said. “She’s had to step into the role because the setter we recruited ditched at the last second. She’s been doing great and without her, we’d be screwed.”
Playing different positions and adapting to injury has been an ongoing challenge for the team.
“We all have been hurt at some time and there has been some personal issues on the team but we’ve all been there for everybody,” middle blocker Amanda Joslin said.
“We had to learn to give up our own goals, adjust and trust that we were going to figure it out,” outside hitter Amanda Warner said.
The team has leaned on the experience of its three sophomores Chelsea Olivas, Nissa McCormack and Lauren Komarzec for support.
“We would lose every game if we didn’t have Lauren,” Warner said.
“At the tournament this last weekend, Lauren fell and she was on her back,” Joslin said. “The ball was coming toward her and she had to crawl on the floor to pump it up. Then we won the point.”
“Nissa does a great job of being loud and reminding us to talk,” Warner said.
According to the players, personal chemistry has helped make improving their teamwork that much easier.
“Going to Burgerville in Centralia and bonding at the hotel helped us come together,” defensive specialist Emma Nakamura said. “Now we’re like family.”
“I wasn’t going to play,” Sheanee Gago said, “but I came to the open gym and all the girls were super nice. I got along with them the very first day and it felt like I knew them forever.”
“Our chemistry just gets stronger and stronger day after day,” Olivas said. “It has a huge effect on how we play on the court and whether or not we communicate.”
The close connections between teammates have helped them feel more comfortable, and to display their passion and intensity. Whether it’s practice or pre-game warm-ups they go full speed, sprinting and diving as if it were a real game.
“I like being around the girls. When I’m around them I feel more pumped up and ready to play,” Gago said. “I always feed off their energy.”
A mixture of music and quiet meditation helps the players get focused before games. One player in particular pumps the team up with her infectious energy and laughter.
“Katrina’s just hilarious,” McCormack said.
“Sometimes, you’re not sure if she’s playing volleyball or what,” Warner said.
“She sings,” Gago said. “She’s singing right now. She’s so open and you can never be mad at her.”
“I’m the jokester of the team and Nissa,” defensive specialist Katrina McClaflin said. “But I feel like I’m the outgoing funny one.”
“She’s just out there,” Joslin said of McClaflin. “She loves life and is always happy.”
McClaflin’s energy will continue to infect the team next season as she will be one of eight returning sophomores next year.
With that many experienced players returning and its new system firmly in place, Pierce looks poised to challenge for the NWAACC Western Division title next season.
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