You see what a community’s made of during tragedy…and triumph. The Carmi White County Lady Bulldogs volleyball squad made sure the community had reason to celebrate with a record shattering season. Coach Chris Lucas talked at Kiwanis Thursday about the team’s historic run.
Lucas himself began as an assistant coach under Jason Craig and Penny Gunter and admits he took the reins at the right time.
“We’ve had athlete after athlete since I’ve taken over. I can’t stand up here and tell you I’m the greatest coach in the world because I’m not. There’s no question about that. You have to have athletes or you can’t win. That’s just how sports are. A coach can motivate, do certain things, prepare, but these girls are the ones who go out and do the job. I’ve been blessed to be their coach, but all the credit goes to them and not me.”
Lucas says he knew they had something going as a program a few years ago and it’s been about building a culture.
“We changed a culture and a mindset that we can step on the court and play with whoever. Teams in the past, it was like, oh we’re playing so and so tonight, let’s just hope we don’t get beat by 20. That mentality is changing in a lot of different sports in Carmi and it’s so awesome to see around the board.”
The community engagement is also on the rise. Lucas says during games when you looked around, you used to see parents, grandparents, maybe some siblings and now when Carmi volleyball takes the court, it more closely resembles a basketball atmosphere. Hand in hand with that, the program is building because of youngsters. More than 100 kids have shown up for the past two volleyball camps and Lucas says they’re all from Carmi.
The 33-9 Bulldogs destroyed the previous season win total of 24. Lucas says no moment is too big for his team anymore and he gave credit to the community for rallying around his troops.
“Man the community really bought in and the community support has been overwhelming to say the least. Whether it be gift bags, calls of encouragement, different groups, foundations, businesses have all been willing to step in and give encouragement to these kids and be part of the program. I just can’t say enough how nice it is whenever you go into something athletically that you have the community’s support.”
The Bulldogs will only lose one starter from their 4th place state team in senior Mara Serafini and return arguably the best player in the south in current sophomore Caroline Simmons.