Posted 9 months ago
By John Axtell
Chris Wells was hired in early August to take over the program after Janel Baily, the coach the past two years, resigned.
Wells has 28 years of volleyball playing and coaching experience. As the head coach at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, he was the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1992, when the Bearcats won 40 matches and were undefeated in conference play. Two of his three teams there were conference champions.
He also was the associate head coach for three years at Eastern Washington University of Cheney, including 2001, when those Eagles won the Big Sky Conference championship and qualified for the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
After working with his new team about a week, Wells said he was impressed with its talent, conditioning and work ethic.
“The kids are focused and are playing hard,” he said. “They’ve got good talent. We also should have good depth. I don’t know how many matches we’ll win because a lot of that depends on the caliber of the opponents and I know the RMAC is tough. But these players certainly have a strong work ethic.”
The roster includes returning four starters and nine letter winners. Four freshmen and three transfers had been added to the roster by Baily, who felt the team would be much improved and recommended Wells as her successor after meeting him a year ago when he was the assistant coach at New Mexico Highlands.
Last year’s team had just two seniors—outside hitter Barbie DeCent and middle hitter Jessica Jester. Both started 109 of the Eagles’ 113 games and had 238 and 228 kills, respectively.
Outside hitter Erika Roybal, middle hitter Alia Brennan, setter Justine Ackie and defensive specialist/libero Alyssa Bauer also started at least 107 games. Brittany Oddo was the Eagles’ starting libero early in the season, but missed several later matches because of injuries.
Roybal led the Eagles with 242 kills, Brennan was the leader in blocks with 83, Ackie handed out 776 sets and had 36 service aces (second in the RMAC), both team highs, and Bauer came up with a team-best 425 digs.
Chadron sisters Jamie and Jazzy McLain are competitive and will provide depth in the back row.
Among the newcomers is Lelalelei Nomura, a native of American Samoa, who had 321 kills at Division II Valdosta State in Georgia last season.
The freshmen include three Nebraskans, all front row players, who were at least honorable mention all-state last season. They are Alexis Farris of Bennington, Ashlyn Hanson of Seward and Kenzie May of Southwest High at Indianola.
May played in the Nebraska All-Star Game this summer.