PLNU Women’s Volleyball’s Historic Season Comes to An End

Photo Courtesy of Anessa Churgwin

Point Loma Nazarene University’s women’s volleyball team is in the business of making history. Last season, the team made history with its best finish in the PacWest at 15-5 and tied its most wins in its NCAA era with 20. And this season was no different. 

This year, the Sea Lions set a new record for most wins in a season since joining the NCAA with 21 victories.

The team also set a new best PacWest finish at 18-2. On the way to that record, the Sea Lions one-upped the 2013 team to set the program’s best PacWest season start at 12-0, which was also the team’s longest undefeated streak since joining the NCAA. They didn’t stop there, though. The team pushed this best start and undefeated streak to 16-0.

When thier undefeated streak was halted by Biola University, the team still had its sight set on another historic moment. The Sea Lions bounced back with a win over Westmont College to bring a share of the PacWest conference title to PLNU for the first time in program history. Then, the team left no doubts about its place at the top of the conference by sweeping Azusa Pacific University to secure sole possession of this title.

Fifth-year marketing major and opposite hitter Claire Smith said the team’s attitude and outlook have been huge contributing factors to its success.

“What stands out the most to me about the season has been our resilience and our positive mindset,” said Smith. “It’s been huge for us to continue to choose joy each and every day.”

With the PacWest title secured, the Sea Lions earned an automatic position in the NCAA postseason. This year’s postseason appearance was the team’s second in program history and the first in nearly a decade. 

The Sea Lions were seeded sixth in the NCAA West Regional tournament, which meant they had to face the third-seeded Cal Poly Pomona Broncos in the first round. Historically, PLNU has struggled against the Broncos, who defeated them earlier this season. The Sea Lions only have one win against them since 1992. 

The match took place on Nov. 30 at Cal State University San Bernardino, and the Sea Lions hoped to carry their regular season momentum into it. PLNU fought, but the match ended with the Sea Lions getting swept, ending the team’s historic season in the first round.

Despite the loss, head coach Jonathan Scott said in an email interview that the team has so much to be proud of.

“This year has been special for many reasons,” said Scott. “Having 3 players stick with the program for 5 years is pretty great, especially to have all 3 of them get some accolades. To win our first ever PacWest title is special and feels great. The thing that makes it most unique is the fact that we’ve somehow continued to win with many different lineups. It has truly been a team-wide success.”

The three players Scott mentioned are Smith, Grace Hicks and Torina Hommes, all of whom received PacWest honors and helped the team set a record number of PacWest awards with five — one more than the team had last year when they tied the program record.

Hommes was joined by teammates Anna Massari and Abigail Nua in being named to the All-PacWest First Team, while Smith and Hicks represented the Sea Lions on the Second Team.

Hicks, a fifth-year middle blocker and MBA student, said she is honored to be named to the Second Team, but praised all of her teammates for their hard work.

“All of these girls deserve the recognition of these honors,” said Hicks. “We have all worked so hard, and it is amazing to celebrate these girls in this way.”

Smith said the award came as a shock and that she is so thankful that she used her fifth year of eligibility.

“I feel super honored and was surprised to be named PacWest Second Team,” said Smith. “I just feel super blessed to be able to have the opportunity to play my fifth year and, honestly, be on the court with the girls around me. There is nothing personally that could have got me that award. That award is something that is a reflection of our entire team.”

Rounding out the program’s honors is Scott’s PacWest Coach of the Year award. 

“It’s my first time getting this award, so it feels good,” said Scott. “That said, it’s really just a reflection of the team’s successes, so it’s really a credit to the hard work they’ve put in every day.”

With the recognition, Scott joins PLNU men’s head soccer coach Phil Wolf and PLNU women’s head soccer coach Kristi Kiely as PacWest coaches of the year this fall.