For coach Ronda Shirley, qualifying for the NJCAA Div. I Volleyball national tournament isn’t enough.
She wants her Apache Ladies to make an impression.
“We should make a statement coming in that we’re not satisfied with just being here,” she said. “We came to do a job and get as far as we can.”
The team’s first goal is making the Elite 8. To accomplish that, Tyler Junior College (29-5) must defeat first-round opponent Redlands Community College of Oklahoma (23-9).
That match is set for 1 p.m. today at the West Plains Civic Center in West Plains, Mo. Shirley said she’s confident TJC is capable of reaching that first goal. It’s the next step that appears more of a challenge, she said.
If TJC wins, the team is then scheduled to play the winner of the match between San Jacinto Community College and Casper College of Wyoming at 7:30 p.m. that same day.
“We know more than likely, unless something strange happens, we will probably face San Jac second round,” the coach said.
The Apache Ladies have claimed only one match in five meetings with San Jacinto this season.
“I didn’t know how they (players) were going to take it,” Shirley said. “I kind of thought they would be like, ‘Oh no.’
“But actually they are kind of excited about it. They’re up for the challenge because they know they can do it.”
Facing challenges at the national level is nothing new to Shirley. Prior to coming to Tyler, she went to the nationals as the Hutchison Community College (Kansas) head coach five times.
The venue also is not new to assistant coach Lauren Gavin, who grew up in Springfield, Mo., just west of West Plains.
But for the players this will be their first trip to nationals. It has been 10 years since a TJC volleyball team has qualified.
Freshman Jordan McArdle, an outside hitter for the team, said beating San Jacinto during the regional tournament has really motivated the team.
“We’ve been knowing this whole season that we’re going to have to face them,” McArdle said. “They didn’t think we could beat them. Beating them showed them that we’re going to be ready for them at nationals. They think they can’t be beat and we showed them they can.”