After a grueling 2020 season filled with adversity and COVID-19 interruptions, the Goshen College women’s volleyball team’s record stood at 0-15. 

Fast forward a year later, and the team already has three wins under their belts with more than half the season left to play.

Head coach Kourtney Crawford said, “I’m excited about the improvement that my team has made, from this season to last.”

“It is a major turn around, but I’m not satisfied with just improving,” she said.

During the off-season, Crawford focused heavily on recruiting kids that were just as passionate about the sport as she is. The team not only gained six first-years but a whole new work ethic.

“The freshmen class came in ready to compete and ready to work,” Crawford said. “I honestly think that’s why we have improved so much, because those six freshmen have pushed the returners to be better.”

Among those returners, a trio of seniors are able to offer leadership and experience to a young team. Naomi Willis, senior captain and nursing major, is one example.

“Coach always says working hard will push others to work harder and make them better,” Willis said. “In practice, we like to focus on bettering our skills and focusing on what we can control as a team.”

Willis explains that each practice begins with individual skills and a motivational quote before the team heads right into competition. 

“Overall, our practices are focused on being competitive, working hard and keeping things simple,” she said. 

The team has also brought in a strength coach to work with them consistently three times a week. Crawford has noticed a “tremendous difference in the girls’ performance.” 

Together, Crawford and Willis have prioritized getting everyone on the same page, team bonding, and building trust. They make sure that each player knows the purpose behind every decision, drill and so on.

Building a positive team culture requires a lot of work, but the GC women’s volleyball team knew it would be necessary before they could move past last season. 

Willis said, “Someone from the team is assigned to read a devotional before each game which has really created a sense of belonging and helped alleviate our fears.”

“Oftentimes, these devotionals are related to athletics and it allows us, as a team, to clear our minds, come together as a team, lift each other up and focus on the game we are about to partake in,” she said. 

This year, the team’s warmup shirts read, “LEAVE NO DOUBT.” 

Willis said, “As a team, we want to give our all each game, so win or lose, we know we tried and gave everything we had.” 

Crawford said, “Our main goal is November 6.”

This date marks the beginning of the Crossroads League tournament, and a chance to turn over a new leaf.

“We want to be playing that day,” Crawford said. “If we complete all of our mini-goals we have set for ourselves, then that big goal will be accomplished.”