The season's end came sooner than hoped, leaving the Lamar Community College volleyball team to reflect on season full of success while learning from its postseason shortcomings.
The Lopes (18-14) fell to Casper in straight sets (20-25, 20-25, 20-25) on October 31 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, during the first round of the Region IX Tournament. It was a bitter end for a team with eyes on making a third straight postseason run.
"Every practice and every meeting leading up to the tournament was focused, energetic, and with purpose," LCC head coach Dante Geoffrey said, "And then we stepped onto the court that morning and we just didn't have it. Casper played well, no doubt, but we have to live with the fact that we didn't play to our potential."
"We [the coaches] spoke to the team, and mainly the freshmen, about understanding how quickly it can end. All that hard work, and it's over in an instant if you don't commit 100 percent to the team. It's a lesson for all of us moving forward. For the players to truly fight for what they believe, and for the coaches to instill that belief and fight, and ensure we maximize our seasons every year."
The loss to the Thunderbirds marked the end of some historic careers at LCC.
Sophomore outside Anamarija Mikovic finished with nine kills, giving her 885 during her two-year career, the most of anyone to don a Lopes uniform. Mikovic's 105 career aces is also best in Lamar history. Despite playing outside, often against the opponent's third or fourth offensive option, Mikovic totaled 104 blocks, which ranks fifth in LCC history.
Mikovic added eight digs and a block assist against Casper.
"Anamarija stepped onto the court her freshman year as an undeniable talent, and over her two seasons here she's worked tirelessly to mold that ability into sharpened skill. She will leave LCC as one of the best to ever play here - a true six-rotation stud - and we're excited to see what her future holds," Geoffrey said.
Mikovic, from Majdanpek, Serbia, finished with 3.74 kills/set (13th in NJCAA Division I), 0.40 service aces/set and 2.71 digs/set. At the time of this writing she ranked ninth in the nation with 4.6 points/set.
Sophomore setter Emily Longnecker led the Lopes offense with 21 assists against Casper, and is second overall in career assists at LCC with 1601. Longnecker's 1104 assists during the 2018 season ranks third all-time.
The Aurora native also scored nine digs and three kills in the first-round loss.
"In many ways Emily was the heartbeat of this team, and everything a coach could ask for," Geoffrey said. "She came into this season knowing it was likely that much of the offense would be on her shoulders, and she never buckled under that weight. She played through injury and illness, led player-only meetings and was always in-tune with the team's mood and emotions.
"As a coach I can't thank Emily enough for her contributions to this program. She made our jobs easier every day and that's before you get to the part where she's an incredible volleyball player."
Longnecker is currently 13th in the nation in total assists and 20th in the nation with 9.2 assists/set.
Freshman outside Charlene Hosly scored six kills and a team-high 17 digs in the Lopes' final match, and while she still has another year with which to leave her mark, she's well on her way to being an all-time LCC great.
Hosly totaled 412 kills in 2018, putting her on pace to finish just behind Mikovic when her two years is all said and done. Her 57 service aces is tied (with Mikovic's 2017 season) for second-best in a single season, and puts her on pace to challenge Mikovic's career mark of 105.
"One of the many reasons to be excited about our future is that we have an all-around stalwart to build around for 2019," Geoffrey said. "Charlene might be the most complete player I've ever coached. She can obviously hit, but even if she couldn't she'd be an All-American libero. Her ball control, her serving, her passing - it's all top notch. Not to mention she's incredibly pleasant to be around and work with every day."
Hosly, a native of France, finished the 2018 season with 3.43 kills/set (20th in the nation), 3.02 digs/set and 0.47 service aces/set (19th). Her 412 kills ranks fourth all time for a single season. She averaged 4.1 points/set (19th).
Of the top 50 players in NJCAA Division I in kills per set, only eight averaged at least 0.4 aces/set, including Lamar's Mikovic and Hosly. Hosly is one of only three to also average at least 3 digs/set.
Sophomore libero Sarah Polanco earned seven digs against the T-Birds, giving her 396 for the season (7th in LCC history) and 528 for her LCC career (6th). Her 84 career aces rank fourth all-time at Lamar.
Sophomore Alex Riley earned five kills (.300 hitting efficiency), a dig and 1.5 blocks in Cheyenne, freshman Kami Steinbacher added six digs, sophomore Jill Cooper-Watson and freshman Cassidy Dotter had two kills each and freshman Valorie Walker had three assists and a dig.