For the second time in three years, the Garden City Community College volleyball team was picked to finish last of nine teams in the Division I KJCCC preseason coaches poll.
The 2017 version was released by the KJCCC on Tuesday, and all that meant for GCCC head coach Jacque Matula was that she had some early season bulletin board material — literally.
“I posted that in the locker room today," she said Tuesday during an evening team practice. "For me, I think that helped me as a player more when people underestimated me, because it gave me more motivation to go out and prove people wrong, so I’m hoping it does the same for the girls ... Underestimate me, we’re going to come for you.”
Her players echoed their coach's sentiments.
"We’re using that as motivation," returning starting libero Bailey Martinez said. "We expect to be at the top, not the bottom.”
Entering her third season at the helm, Matula's squads have now been picked to finish last twice and second-to-last once. Last year started promising for the Busters, though, with a season-opening win against Butler in straight sets. Any conference wins have been hard to come by for a Buster program that has finished in the bottom half of its division every year since 2004 — let alone any sweeps.
But in their very next conference match — a straight-set loss — the Busters lost their top outside hitter, Shaney Tiumalu to a season-ending knee injury. Then, Hannah Hattabaugh suffered the same injury in the following conference match, and the Busters did not win another conference match for two months, finishing 2-14 and eighth in the KJCCC West.
It was an identical record to Matula’s first season at the helm in 2015, when Matula took over just days before the start of the season. But Matula and her squad are expecting 2017 to be different.
Tiumalu returns from injury and is expected to be a top outside hitter in the conference, and Martinez was an honorable mention on the 2016 All-Region team, recording 808 digs, the second most in the region. The Busters also return Madison Park, Madison Troyer and a red-shirt freshman Tishara Hicks.
The Busters' season opener is set for Aug. 25 at the New Mexico Military Institute's invitational tournament in Roswell, N.M. Their home opener is Sept. 7 against Laramie, Wyo., set to be played in the back gym of the Perryman Athletic Complex because of the renovations to the front gym, which will be named Conestoga Arena.