Story by Randy Whetstone Jr.
Photos courtesy of Bryan Rader
In the sport of volleyball, few programs can compare themselves to Assumption. Ever since the program’s inception 29 years ago, their values and priorities have stayed intact almost three decades later. As a result, the Rockets (40-3) reign supreme in the state of Kentucky, and have captured their 20th state championship in school history after they beat Mercy 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-22).
“Obviously we were all excited to win, however a major reaction for the girls and myself was one of relief,” says Coach Ron Kordes. “There is a lot of pressure playing in this program due to our schedule and history. We are expected to win every time out, so once they had accomplished their goal of a state championship, I could see the relief on their faces.”
Winning is not automatic and even with a target on their back each season, Assumption still had their growing pains this year. Being ranked No. 1 at the start of the season didn’t stop early pitfalls. When the Rockets encountered roadblocks, it became easy for players and coaches to allow doubt to creep in. But during the last third of the season, Kordes says the team grew and soared in their confidence, playing the last 14 matches of the season without dropping a set or a game.
Perhaps the greatest lesson the team learned this year came when they played Sacred Heart on September 23.
“After beating Sacred Heart twice early in the season, we played them at home and lost in five,” Kordes adds. “We assumed we would win and that is always dangerous; but giving credit to Sacred Heart, they played an inspiring game and with nothing to lose. They deserved the win.”
The Rockets learned quickly from that lesson, going on to defeat Sacred Heart in the seventh region tournament as they dominated the competition on their way to becoming champions. But the girls were not the only ones growing and learning this season. Each year, with the pressure mounting, Kordes becomes the “coach as student” as he learns and finds new ways to enable his team to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
“Each year I am searching for ways to alleviate some of the pressure that is placed on these young ladies,” he says. “So hopefully I was able to do that in some small way this year.”
Aside from lessons learned and growing as a unit, chemistry is the main ingredient to the team’s success. When players are in harmony, they are able to gel together as an inseparable force with the drive to win. Assumption has won 20 of the 39 state championships since the state tournament started in 1979.
Perhaps the program’s greatest victory is their ability to send a plethora of players to college on a volleyball scholarship, including 15 players on their current roster who have committed to playing in college. Kordes has a lot championship hardwood to back his name, but as a coach his greatest feeling is “to help them achieve their dreams.” VT