This time a year ago Nicholls volleyball would have given up after starting a match in a 2-0 hole.
Even if the Colonels happened to win the next set — which rarely happened in itself — they had no faith in their ability to come back and win two more. They knew they were going to lose and they were almost always right.
In fact, in the three-year span from 2016-18, Nicholls lost 45 matches by straight sets, including 18 of its 29 matches in 2018. You’d have to go back all the way to the 2015 season to find a game in which Nicholls came back to win from down two sets.
But this is not the 2018 Colonels.
Riding high after a 3-1 win to open the season against Mercer earlier that morning, Nicholls found itself down 2-0 to Campbell University in the second match of opening weekend at the Mercer Bears Classic. But instead of getting down on themselves, players simply looked around and assured one another they could do it.
They won the third set 25-23. They took the fourth set 27-25. They clinched it with a 15-12 final set.
The next day, they made the winning streak official with a third and final win over Georgia Southern 3-1. In one weekend, Nicholls matched its win total from the entire 2018 season.
“The whole mentality was that it’s OK because we’re not losing this game,” junior setter Meghan Wozniak said. “We’re going to find a way, whether it’s through hustle, hard work, our kills, just anything like that.
“The whole mentality changed on the court to where it’s not an option to lose. We all wanted each other to do well. It wasn’t individuals. It was a team effort. The way we worked together, the way we flowed — it was amazing.”
To see how far this program has come in just the few short months Kallie Noble has been at the helm, all you have to do is look at their faces in the locker room following their comeback against Campbell.
There was banging on the walls, shouting and plenty of dancing. For the first time in a long time the Colonels felt good about how they played and feel optimistic about the rest of the season.
Wozniak was later named to the Tournament MVP while senior libero Emily Venable was named to the all-Tournament team.
Nicholls opens its home slate with a two-match series against Alcorn State on Friday and Saturday in Stopher Gym. First serve on Friday is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday begins at 11 a.m.
“The team dynamic and the team chemistry is a lot better this year,” Venable said. “I think we’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the gym and it’s transferred on the gym. We’ve become a big family and it really shows in how we play with each other.”
Prior to the season players spoke of the culture change brought in with the new administration. That’s only been reinforced after this weekend.
Nowadays coaches try to give players more room to figure out problems on their own instead of sending them to the bench at the first sign of trouble. Coaches encourage them to be aggressive and not worry about mistakes.
And there were some mistakes this weekend. All three matches started out with a loss in the first set. Noble said the key to maintaining the success will be to learn from those slips and not get complacent just because the matches ended well.
“They have a lot of heart,” Noble said. “They realized that they were better (than the way they played in the first set). It’s a matter of us being more disciplined and better shot selections or making that extra step to the ball. They really just figured it out, and once it started clicking and they started playing for each other, we were able to come out on top.”