The Student News Site of Eastfield - Dallas College

The Et Cetera

The Et Cetera

The Et Cetera

Q&A: Nickel revels in perfect volleyball season

Rory Moore
Phil Nickel embraces McKensie Anderson after the Harvester Bees’ national win.

It’s not often that a team can truly claim to have had a flaw- less season, but the Harvester Bees volley- ball team has earned that right. Boasting a 35-0 record overall with only six sets dropped—never more than one set a game—Eastfield took home the NJCAA Division III national championship.

On top of the championship, the Harvester Bees accrued many individual Dallas Athletic Conference awards over the season. Offensive awards were given to Carli Banks once, Brenly Walker twice and Azoria Davis three times, with the latter two receiving the Co-MVP and Newcomer of the Year awards respectively, and Taryn Doiron winning Setter of the Year. Defensive awards were earned by McKenzie Anderson and Ava Cole, who not only won four times but was also named NJCAA Defensive Player of the Week and DAC Libero of the Year. Head coach Phil Nickel took home the DAC Coach of the Year award.

Nickel sat down with Et Cetera photo editor Rory Moore to discuss his record-setting season, including his bond with the players and what went into their success both on and off the court.

How would you reflect on this season?

It’s still unreal in a way to think about how we went 35-0, won a national championship and only lost six sets all year.

It’s still kind of like, “Holy cow! How did that happen?” It just doesn’t happen very often to have that much success, so it’s amazing. I’m very proud of what we accomplished, but at the same time, we know that we still gotta get back to work if we want to do the same type of thing next year.

Who in the team do you think stood out the most regarding performance and carrying the team?

I think that’s kind of what made us successful. We didn’t have one person who carried the team. Azoria Davis and Brenly Walker had the most kills and were kind of our leaders offensively most of the year, but we got contributions from Carli Banks, Aleyna Gerlach, Tasmine Maxwell, McKenzie Anderson and Kendall Wilson. All of them contributed, so we didn’t necessarily have a true standout that carried the team. It was more of a group effort.

How do you attribute the improvement from last year to this year?

I think there were a lot of things. We recruited some very talented freshmen to come in. When I got here, we started laying the groundwork for the future. The sophomores really bought in and helped establish a culture. We were able to have a full offseason where we worked on a lot of things and kind of talked about what we wanted to accomplish and then I got to have them for preseason, which we didn’t do last year.

What did you see in the team that told you they would be successful?
The talent level was much higher than last year. They were competitive and they wanted to win, and we saw that early on. It was just a different mindset. This group wanted to win, whereas last year’s group was trying to figure it out because it was a mess (The team’s former coach left, and Nickel came aboard after the season started). The situation they got into was unfair to them, but when we came in this fall, you could tell this group wanted to win and they were going to do what it took to be successful.

Of all the teams that you’ve coached, where does this team stand?

It’s hard to compare teams sometimes. I told this group they’re the best group I’ve ever had—talent—wise, team cohesion, team chemistry, work ethic; this group was special.

How would you describe the assistant coaches and the effort they’ve put in?

Coach (Lexus) Gerschaw did a great job in her first year. She added a lot to the team from a volleyball standpoint. I’m super happy that she’s here and happy that she’s planning on coming back next year. Coach (Anthony) Fletcher helps a lot in the background. He isn’t quite as prevalent in the volleyball part, but he does a lot in managing the program and keeping things on track.

Did you ever think you’d be the coach of a championship-winning and undefeated team?

Honestly, no. I guess you dream about things like that, to go undefeated and win the championship, and I don’t think I ever thought about that. Obviously, as a coach, you want to win championships and have suc-
cess, but for it to come together the way it did this year, it’s kind of unimaginable in some ways.

What did you bring to the table to make this team successful?

I think it’s experience, I’ve been doing this for a long time. So I knew how to build a team and put it together. We were able to recruit and find the right group and along the
way, we were fortunate with different things we tried and did, which all seemed to work out.

How would you describe your relationship with the players?

I think it’s great. Everybody’s planning on coming back so far. That says a lot, because that’s not always the case. We’ve had some laughs, and we’ve shed a few tears with some sophomores because we’re sad to see them go. It’s been a special group. That’s something I pride myself on, building those relationships. They’re not just players, they’re people and we want to make sure that we’re preparing them to be the best volleyball players they can be but also to be the best people they can be.

—Life and Arts Editor Sean Stroud contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Rory Moore
Rory Moore, Photo Editor

Comments (0)

All The Et Cetera Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *