Tech Tidbits: Volleyball Suns Ready to Pursue Next Ring

2022 Arkansas Tech Volleyball Team
Members of the 2022 Arkansas Tech University volleyball team are, from left-to-right: (front row) Aspen Jankowski, Jenna Keller, Jamie Myrick, Brianna Merkel, Megan Solberg, Heather Thomas, Mikaela Esparza, Gracie Palmer, Ava Johnson; (back row) assistant coach Kennedy Shelstead, Jordyn English, Abigail Weaver, Emma Crenshaw, Olivia Crowl, Lydia Hale, Zoe Lott, Sierra Orton, Anna Strother, Presley Hamric, Kaitlyn Neal, Maddi Siedenburg and head coach Kera Coleman.

Head coach Kera Coleman and the Arkansas Tech University volleyball team made a memory for a lifetime last November in Hot Springs when they captured the 2021 Great American Conference Tournament championship.

“Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about,” said Coleman at the fall Green and Gold luncheon. “It’s about winning at a high level and having an enjoyable experience. Nobody asks you about your individual awards when you are old and don’t play anymore. They want to know ‘did you win?’ We hope the student-athletes leave the program still loving the sport, loving each other and us.”

Arkansas Tech finished 22-8 overall during the fall 2021 season and earned its fifth GAC Tournament title in volleyball (2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2021). The Golden Suns reached the NCAA Division II Tournament in volleyball for the sixth time (2000, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2021).

This summer, nine returning players and 11 newcomers have made the investment necessary to put Arkansas Tech back in GAC title contention in 2022. All 20 Golden Suns have been on campus since early July participating in strength and conditioning work and getting to know each other.

“Because they did that, our preseason has been really good so far,” said Coleman. “When they do things like that, we don’t have to do as many little, nitty gritty drills and we don’t have to spend as much time setting our expectations because the seniors and captains have already taken care of that.”

Arkansas Tech will begin its season Friday, Aug. 26, and Saturday, Aug. 27, by playing four matches in a classic hosted by Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. The Golden Suns will play their first home match Tuesday, Sept. 6, against Southern Arkansas University.

“We’ve been figuring out our strengths and weaknesses,” said Coleman. “When you start a new season, you have to figure out how we’re going to fill holes created by the loss of talented players. That’s hard sometimes. I’m looking forward to figuring out line-ups and what works best for us. We’re physically a little smaller. We’re working on blocking and being physical at the net every day. Defense is an attitude.”

Coleman, a 2012 graduate of ATU, is entering her fifth season as the head coach at her alma mater. She succeeded Kristy Bayer, ATU’s all-time leader in volleyball wins and Coleman’s head coach during her playing days as a Golden Sun.

With that first championship ring secured and a 3.6 team grade point average during the 2021-22 academic year, it feels like Coleman has turned the corner. It feels like it’s her program now. It feels like she’s ready to lead the Golden Suns to more success.

“I’m very passionate about this city, this university, this program and (ATU) athletics as a whole,” said Coleman. “Following a legend is exciting, but it is really difficult. When you add the fact that I am an alumna, all I’ve ever wanted to do is make this program proud. We took a little bit of a dip that first year and we didn’t win as much as we probably should have, but I’m thankful now to say we have buckled in. I’m thankful to a lot of people who have coached me through some things and talked me through some of my tough days.”

Follow live coverage of Golden Suns volleyball this season at Admission to ATU home volleyball matches is free.

Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.