Favored to repeat as Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference champs in 2010, the Tabor College volleyball team has had great success since Amy Ratzlaff took over the program in 1999.
In the first decade of the new millennium, Tabor has won seven KCAC titles, including six straight from 2001-06.
Ratzlaff cites a simple formula for the success.
“I feel like God has called me to this program,” she said. “He does with the program what he’d like to with it.
“We recruit great women,” she added. “I feel like the character of our women in our program make us successful.”
Pulling much of her talent from the central Kansas area, Ratzlaff said she focuses on building a team core with players from the Sunflower State.
“Our Kansas girls are a great core to have, they know how to work hard,” she said. “They have a great support system and they’re local enough to play a lot together. Our out-of-state girls bring in extra talent and fit in really well.”
Another element to the formula is Ratzlaff’s policy of recruiting freshman.
“I think that causes good leadership,” she said. “Those girls know what it’s all about so there’s no change in the program year to year based on personnel.”
That same formula is in place for the 2010 season, with three Kansas natives returning as all-KCAC players.
Halstead’s Mandi Phillips was the 2009 KCAC Setter of the Year as a sophomore.
“She’s always solid,” Ratzlaff said. “You never doubt what kind of player Mandi’s going to be.”
Hillsboro High graduate Tina Frick was named to the first team all-KCAC squad for her performance as a sophomore.
“She’s come in super strong, very driven,” Ratzlaff said. “I think we’re going to see a year better than last year.”
Abilene junior Gina Hullet was a second-team all-KCAC selection.
“She’s just a true athlete,” Ratzlaff said. “She dealing with a knee right now, but she’s working hard and doing what she needs to be doing.”
Joining the Bluejay core will be Moundridge freshmen Hollister Wolf and Jessie Vogts and Halstead freshman Rachel Phillips.
Wolf and Vogts were members of the 2009 Class 2A state champion volleyball team. Phillips is the younger sister of Mandi.
“They’re good local girls,” Ratzlaff said. “That’s exactly what this program wants to be about—taking the best of the best from the local talent and being able to let them compete in a competitive environment.”
She added, “They know how to win. You can’t teach that in a player fast enough. They come in with it.”
Overall, the 11th-year coach thinks Tabor has the talent to compete well, but knows there is some work to be done.
“The level of volleyball we have in the gym is pretty good across the board,” she said. “We still have to find the right mixes if we’re going to be successful.”
Ratzlaff said she isn’t convinced of the KCAC preseason No.1 ranking.
“It’s nice,” she said. “It’s an honor to be put first, but it really doesn’t mean anything. There are some teams in our conference I would have put higher on the list.”
Another conference title would be nice for the Bluejays, but Ratzlaff doesn’t set goals based on records or championships.
“We really want to be a program that honors God and the platform for him,” she said. “A lot of the other good stuff comes out of that.”
Tabor opens Sept. 3 against Hasting College in the Bellevue University tournament in Bellevue, Neb. The Bluejays will open their home and KCAC season Sept. 8 when they host Friends University, the No. 2 preseason pick in the KCAC.