Reaching Their Potential: 2011 at a Glance|
The Red Raiders went through a year of learning under first-year head coach Don Flora.
Dec. 2, 2011
By Jackie Vincent
From the couch in Don Flora's office just a few days before his final match of the season, it seemed to be the most fitting area to have a one-on-one over his first year season as head coach for the Texas Tech Volleyball team. His presence was welcoming, almost like picking up a conversation from an old friend awhile back.
The view from the couch displays "Coach of the Year" honors he received from his previous teams, team pictures and personal pictures that Flora takes with him reminding him why he loves this sport so much. But one poster hanging above his couch stood out from the others.
It's clear each individual honor had significance in Flora's life whether he knew them or he just looked up to them for what they accomplished and made the same efforts and goals.
Coming off a loss to Oklahoma the Texas Tech Volleyball team still pressed on as they prepared for the final game of the season.
"I think it's really positive still," senior Karlyn Meyers said as she drew an image of what the mood was like for the Red Raiders going into their last game of the season. "No one has given up on the season.
"We're not in the state of mind where the season is over, so we might as well coast through the end. We still are very determined to win this last game because you never know what could happen."
"Just to show that we aren't a nobody," Meyers said. "The Big 12 is one of the top conferences in the country so I think people kind of throw us to the side and I think it's important for us to make a statement. We are in a tough conference and we are competing with every team."
The outcome was not in Tech's favor on senior night against Missouri. But Flora's two seniors were concerned more about what this night meant for them and their careers. Meyers and Amanda Dowdy had much to celebrate and embrace playing in their final Big 12 match.
"The emotional side of what they both brought was tremendous," Flora said. "You could just see they were so thrilled to have this year with us in a new way and for them to be able to go out and leave this place better than they found it and to transform their joy for the game and change the culture that they were a big part in leading that."
Flora said that because of their support the program grew stronger and closer with the leadership and the passion that they brought everyday both on and off the court.
Playing volleyball and growing close to a team are just a couple of the aspects Meyers learned from being an athlete in college, but Flora added a little extra to take with her through life.
"I learned a lot of skill, but I also learned a lot about how being an honest person," Meyers said. "Being open and willing to talk to people will help you in the long run."
One area that Flora placed an emphasis on when he arrived in Lubbock was an understanding that this program could compete with any team in the country.
Flora had an understanding from previous seasons that this was something that needed to be solved both physically and mentally.
Even though much was accomplished from this season, there is always something to take from and to improve in the next season.
Flora said preparation was also a key lesson that his players learned during his first season at the helm of the program.
The Red Raiders went five sets during five different matches on the year, taking a ranked Oklahoma to the brink while also going the distance with two other NCAA Tournament squads in Texas A&M and Baylor.
"This program reached a lot of its potential," Flora said. "There were areas that we didn't reach our potential, but for the most part we did reach our potential."
As a team trying to rebuild a program, it takes a lot out of everyone and what the Tech coaching staff and players have been doing to get there is not an easy battle.
But that's the fun part of it all.
The fact that this team gets to be a part of something unique and special makes it all worthwhile in the end.
For any sport, people will take many things from it in which they have been taught and take it with them in life. Knowing how to talk to someone, being a team player, learning to work hard, and winning.
To win is one thing, but it's how much passion that is placed on the sport. To truly understand the sport, accepting the appreciation from it takes a lot of sacrifices and effort to gain certain knowledge of why it's played and that is what this team has done.
Jackie Vincent is an undergrad student and former Texas Tech volleyball player. She also served as the color analyst last season for Texas Tech volleyball games on KTXT. Email comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on twitter @jackiev0611.