Final Four return trip the goal for GCCC VB, eventually
By J. Levi Burnfin
Creating a winning culture is the first item on new Garden City Community College's head volleyball coach Harvey Sanders' to-do list.
He may already have a head start as the Lady Busters competed in the Jayhawk Conference Division I Final Four under previous head coach Rob Lutz for the first time, according to a release on the schools' website, since 1990. There's still a lot of work to do, though, according to Sanders.
"I know some of the history of this program and how good it has been," said Sanders. "I've had conversations about getting it back there and I wanted to be involved in that."
Four players from the 2012 squad return to help Sanders do just that.
Chinasa Ekweariri, Bailey Eve, Taylor Winchester and Abby Martinez will help lead the Lady Busters into 2013 and, hopefully for Sanders, become catalysts for the culture change he is trying to instill.
Ekweariri, a Garden City High School graduate, and Eve, Salt Lake City, Utah, are the twin towers in the center of the Lady Busters' team, both standing at 6-feet tall and playing middle blocker. Winchester is a 5-foot-9 outside hitter from Walnut, Calif., and Martinez is a local product from Garden City serving as a defensive specialist at 5-3.
Supplementing the foundation the four returners have built is a talented crop of freshmen and sophomore transfers. Incoming freshmen setters Abby Rennick and Katia Dominguez are joined by outside hitters Dominique Mays, Nohelly Brown and Tristan Woodward, and middle hitter Casey Hicks. Sophomore outside hitters Vanessa Marinin and Haley Harbour round out the talented group of newcomers.
Those players, with the four returners, create a strong foundation for Sanders heading into the season — but even Sanders does not know how that will translate during matches.
"The first time we hit the floor, it's going to be a watermark moment," he said. "It's going to allow me to see what we can do in a different situation."
But Sanders has another objective that takes precedence — staying healthy.
Ekweariri has been severely limited during her career because of several knee injuries, according to Sanders. It's hindered or cut short Ekweariri's season every year since her eighth grade.
As talented as Ekweariri is, Sanders also knows how her health, or lack thereof, could limit the team's ability.
"She's at times unstoppable in our practices," he said.
The first time an opposing team will have to handle Ekweariri in a non-scrimmage situation will be Friday in Lamar, Colo., for a two-day tournament at Lamar Community College. The Lady Busters will be facing Otero (La Junta, Colo.) Junior College, Laramie County (Wyo.) Community College, Trinidad (Colo.) Community College and Lamar.
"We're going to be good. We're going to be efficient eventually. I just don't know how good or efficient everybody else is going to be," he said.
Last season, Hutchinson won the Jayhawk championship, defeating Barton, and advanced all the way to the semifinals of the NJCAA D-I championships before being eliminated.
They should return as the favorites, just in front of Seward, Barton and Dodge City. The Lady Busters finished the 2012 season with a 21-20 record after only winning three matches from 2009 to 2011. However, Garden City finished sixth in the conference during the regular season before upsetting Colby in the first round of the conference tournament to earn a spot in the Final Four.