By: Brandon Clark | Contributor
Photo by: Michael Dunn | Photographer
It has been an exciting new season for our South Alabama volleyball Jaguars, to say the least! The 2021 semester has been full of plenty of wins, riveting tournaments and new faces.
Starting as early as their first match on Aug. 27 with the Jaguar Invitational, the Jags made it clear that they were a force to be reckoned with. Florida A&M quickly picked up on this message in the match when South Alabama went 3-0, scoring 25 points in each set, a trend that would repeat throughout the rest of the Invitational.
Along with a strong start, in Jaguar style, our volleyball players defended South Alabama’s turf, earning victory after victory. Even as our team clashed against rival Troy University, not once but twice, our players demonstrated our school’s superiority, with South Alabama’s second encounter simultaneously “marking the first time a Jag team has won 20 games since the 2019 squad,” according to the USA Jaguars’ game recap, and a Troy sweep for the second straight meeting.
Earlier this year, South Alabama had the privilege of welcoming the Jaguar’s new head volleyball coach to the team, Jesse Ortiz. Ortiz has prior volleyball coaching experience with various other programs, from the Montclair State Redhawks to the Clemson Tigers. In just his first year working with South, in combination with the enormous amount of effort put in by our volleyball players, Ortiz was able to lead the Jaguars to the 2021 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Championship and emerge as champions for the first time in our University’s history.
This would not be the last of our team’s wonderful accomplishments for players and coaches alike. On Dec. 6, Ortiz was honored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) with the title of Southeast Region Coach of the year, an award given to commemorate coaches who develop “student-athletes to become recognizable leaders on and off the court”, according to the USA Jaguars website. Additionally, after an exceptional performance at the Sun Belt Conference, our Jaguars were given a bid, which propelled them to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament that takes place from Dec. 2 to Dec. 18 of this year.
The Jaguars played an impressive match in the tournament’s first round against the University of Miami in four narrow sets, with the final score ultimately being 1-3. Although suffering a hard-fought loss, it was an incredible milestone for our players as this was the first NCAA Volleyball tournament South Alabama was represented in.
Looking ahead, our Jaguars have demonstrated that they are well equipped with the team dynamic and the skills to outmatch their opponents, along with the professional guidance to do so. In the near future, we can certainly look forward to our team producing more victories, dominating in championships, and having even more accomplishments to speak of. In the meantime, “Go Jags!”