BILLINGS — Just a few short months ago the Rocky Mountain College volleyball team was playing in the NAIA National Tournament. After an abbreviated offseason, the Battlin’ Bears are already getting back to work in search of another national tournament berth.
“I think it’s best that we have a back-to-back season at this point. They’re itching, like, ‘We want to get back again. We want to show people what we learned from that experience,'" said Rocky head coach Yang Yang.
“I think it’s honestly affecting us in a great way, because we’re still fresh from last season," Rocky junior outside hitter Kyra Oakland said. "Obviously last season we went to nationals, so I think that momentum is really helping us with the preseason, helping us with these preseason tournaments, especially because our regular season doesn’t start until October. That’s when our first conference game is, so I think that this is really helping us.”
Even early on, Rocky’s players have noticed a difference in the preparation entering the season and tone of practice. There wasn’t a big lull in between seasons as there typically is, allowing the Bears to spend their free time in the summer building off last year’s success and gearing up for another run.
“Every one of my players works, right? So they just work and we give them summer workout sheets and they work out by themselves," said Yang. "We have a really good condition and strength trainer. He’s really good and has everything planned out for us. It really helps out the program.”
The Bears are bringing back a good chunk of their roster from last season and have high expectations this fall. Team chemistry and camaraderie are high, but Rocky has one goal that it didn’t get to check off last season – a Frontier Conference title.
“There’s definitely a chip on our shoulder. We really want to go out there and win and be the best team that we can be," junior libero Ayla Embry said. "Everybody kind of has a fire under their butt and we all want to win, so it’s really good to see.”
“This season we’re going to have a couple freshman starting, so I think that could be challenging, but I truly believe in them. I truly believe in our team chemistry. I think from last season it’s still there," Oakland said. "We still have a lot of returners and I think that we could do something really good with those returners.”
Rocky will open up its season on Friday, August 20 at 1 p.m. against Bushnell University as part of the Big Sky Challenge. Rocky swept Bushnell in the opening round of last year’s NAIA National Tournament.