From start to finish, the 2018 Cyclone volleyball team surprised and amazed anyone who was unsure of their talents and abilities this season.

With only a handful of losses, the Cyclones emerged as the NJCAA Region IV champions, taking down the team that bested them for the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship—Waubonsee Community College. And that’s just one instance of how this team bounced back time and again this year. The most impressive comebacks were during the team’s run in the NJCAA Division II Championship in Charleston, West Virginia (Nov. 15-17).

The Cyclones lost their first match in a close four-set outing. The next day they faced Carl Sandburg College, a team they lost to in September, and battled through five close sets, with Moraine Valley eking out the victory after losing the first two sets. Another tight win over North Dakota State College of Science led them to the ninth place consolation match with Catawba Valley Community College. By then, they’d thrown every ounce of remaining energy into what became their last game of the season, settling for a 10th place overall finish in the nation. Freshman Noelle Knezz (Lincoln-Way West) earned a nod to the All-Tournament team for her performance. She also was named to the NJCAA Division II All-American second team.

“Noelle really bounced back from her knee injury and was a key player for us at nationals. She went from being unable to play a quarter of the season to being our leading scorer and go-to hitter in the end,” said head Coach Lauren Lorenz, who culminated her third season leading the squad in her first trip to nationals along with a Region Coach of the Year honor.

The fighting spirit of these Cyclones led them to a 31-7 overall record and 5-1 tally in conference. In addition to her national honor, Knezz earned All-Region and All-Conference second team honors. Freshmen Amanda Bulow (Oak Lawn) and Abbi Fletcher (Oak Lawn) joined her on the All-Region team and made the All-Conference first team. Freshman Lauren Gausselin (Sandburg) earned nods to the All-Conference second team. Fletcher, freshman Taylor Bulow (Oak Lawn) and sophomore Elizabeth Coffey (Peotone) were recognized at regionals with All-Region Tournament team honors.

Comprised of mostly freshmen (Coffey is the lone sophomore), the future looks bright for this successful group.

“We fought extremely hard to stay alive and persevered through some tough teams. Coming back from being down 0-2 and defeating Carl Sandburg, who beat us previously in the season, was a true testament to the hard work that these players have put in all season,” Lorenz said. “Nationals was very eye-opening. It showed us that we are able to compete with the top teams in the nation and gave us a lot of insight looking forward to next year. The physical and mental growth that all 10 women displayed was very impressive, and I am excited to see that continue next season.”