Nineteen Is the Magic Number

Photo by Randy Whetstone Jr. | contributing Photographer

Photo by Randy Whetstone Jr. | contributing Photographer

If you walk into an Assumption volleyball practice, it will not take you long to know what the team’s goal is for this season. One of the premier powerhouses in volleyball in Kentucky has won 18 state championships total. On the left side of their practice jerseys is the number 19, which acts as a constant reminder to the players that they are always working toward taking the next championship.

“We started that I don’t know how many years ago,” says Head Coach Ron Kordes of displaying the number. “It is just a daily reminder of what their goal is. Our goal has always been the possibility to try to win a state championship. That is always our number one goal. So it is a daily reminder. Although they don’t see it on themselves, they see it on another shirt. This is what we are working for.”

Allie Gregory, senior defensive specialist who is headed to the University of Florida, says that by following in the footsteps of great players who preceded her, she and the other players are always striving to leave a legacy.

“It definitely makes you work harder so you want to come in the gym thinking about the people who came before us, and we don’t want to let anyone down. So since we are seniors, we are stepping up our game to make sure that everyone is following us and working hard too so we can keep that legacy going.”

A wise sage once said that a threefold cord is hard to break. For this team, it’s the trio of captains – Lee Ann Cunningham, Allie Gregory and Shelby Olsen – that is the unassailable triumvirate leading Assumption to winning its 19th state championship.

Cunningham, who is a defensive specialist headed to Rice University says, “Since we are seniors this year, we all stepped up in a leadership role. We all play club together, so it is just a matter of working well with the underclassmen that we haven’t played with. It is also coming together on the court, playing effectively and having a good and aggressive mentality. We are trying to leave a mark so that when the underclassmen are in our position next year, they have a standard to live up to.”

The Rockets have created a climate in the practice setting that keeps the girls motivated, focused and driven in their efforts. Shelby Olsen, a setter who is headed to Northern Kentucky University, remarks that she and her team are working hard every single day to achieve their goal:

“There is a very high expectation everyday. If you don’t work your hardest, you shouldn’t expect to play. Everybody comes in to put 100 percent every day. The whole atmosphere is to compete. Even if you come in after school tired, you are still expected to compete just like you would if you were ready for a game day.”

At the head of any prominent team is a visionary coach who is able to deposit the intangibles within their players that they will be able to carry along not just in volleyball but all throughout life.

Coach Kordes preaches this message: “You have to be willing to work for what you want. Nobody is going to give you anything. It requires you coming in here on a daily basis and learning how to focus on getting better in what you do, regardless of what you’re doing in life. I tell them they have to learn how to compete because it is a competitive world out there. Somebody is going to want the scholarship you got, somebody is going to want the boyfriend you got, and somebody is going to want the promotion you are in line for. So to learn how to get through this world and this life, I try to put a tough coating on them.”

Hence, the back of the practice jerseys reads, ‘Never Give Up, Never Give In.’ The mentality of the Assumption volleyball program is to always work hard for what you want. And with the girls living and breathing that idea at every practice every day and the coach constantly working to instill that attitude in them, 19 seems closer than ever. VT