2002 volleyball season recap
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs knew it would have to rely upon youth for the 2002 volleyball season. It was an inevitable consequence of losing three starters - each an All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference performer - to graduation.
But that wasn't the end of it. Two other starters from the 2001 team that went 22-9 and went to the RMAC playoffs missed the season because of physical ailments. A key reserve transferred to another school. Coach Shawn Garus accepted a job with Texas Tech.
With a team comprised of mostly freshmen and sophomores remaining, athletic director Randy Cubero opted to take the youth movement to an extreme by replacing Garus with probably the youngest coaching staff in the NCAA - and perhaps the youngest staff in NCAA history.
Tara Miller was named head coach despite being just 23-years old. Her assitant, Jessica Wood, was even younger at 21. And while the pair didn't bring a lot to the university in terms of age, the brought plenty in terms of experience and skill.
It was Miller, after all, that helped eliminate the 2001 Mountain Lions from the RMAC playoffs when she was an All-American setter for rival Western State. She also brought experience within the conference, having served as an assistant coach at Western in 2000 while rehabbing from a knee injury. While Miller was ending CU-Colorado Springs' season, Wood was competing at the highest level as an outside hitter for Division I Murray State.
The expected growing pains from so much youth materialized slowly. The Mountain Lions won one of their three games in a season-opening tournament at Cameron. The repeated the feat a week later at Fort Hays State. Then they beat New Mexico Highlands in their RMAC opener and two games later, topped in-town rival Colorado College. Ten games into the season, CU-Colorado Springs was 4-6 and hopeful that even its wildest expectations might be exceeded.
That optimism was premature. Facing a schedule full of tough RMAC competition, the Mountain Lions lost Lindsay Buchheister and Linnlee Hansen for several games each. Senior Brooke Fitzpatrick could have picked up much of the slack, but she was never 100 percent because of knee and ankle problems.
The freshmen and untested sophomores played well, but the teams they were facing â€" many of which were nationally ranked â€" were simply too talented and too experienced. CU-Colorado Springs failed to win another game, finishing 4-24, 1-18 in the RMAC.
"Going through all those losses and getting that feeling of defeat, nobody wants to go through that again," said Miller. "We've put in a lot of hours since the season ended. The team has paid the price in blood, sweat and tears. Each workout has been a battle. Now, we're ready for the war."
With the injured players healthy and Miller's first recruiting class in the fold, the Mountain Lions will be fully reinforced.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured