Starting in 2012, the Coastal Carolina volleyball team appeared in a conference tournament championship game every year.
But that streak ended last season as the Chants found themselves eliminated in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament. Their record was a dismal 12-13 that season.
It was the first losing season for CCU head coach Jozsef Forman and only the third time since he came to Coastal in 2012 that his team amassed 10 or more losses in a single season. This was also the first losing season for CCU since 2011.
It was the events of last season that third-year assistant coach CJ Allard said inspired returning members to get back into the gym and turn things around.
“There has been plenty of productivity in the offseason,” Allard said. “We have a really great group of girls this year that all really care about each other and fight for each other. There’s the old saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and that was exactly what we saw in our first practice.”
While the team has been practicing for almost two weeks ahead of their exhibition against UNC on Saturday, there is still one player who has not reported to practice due to international duty. Annett Nemeth is playing for the Hungarian national team in the 2019 European Championships.
Nemeth played in all 25 matches for the Chanticleers as well as all 93 sets that the Chants played last season.
Should Hungary succeed, the team will get the chance to play in qualification matches for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“We are missing one of our key players,” Allard said. “But it is for a great reason. Annett is a wonderful human being and an even better volleyball player. She’s representing Hungary and Coastal Carolina very well.”
The Chants are looking for new leadership as they prepare for the upcoming season. Last season was the first time in four years that the Chanticleers played without Leah Hardeman, the only player in NCAA Division I Volleyball history to win conference player of the year all four years of her collegiate career.
Kyla Manning is one of only three players still on Coastal’s last championship team (2017) and Allard is looking forward to seeing how Manning uses that experience to guide the team.
“When you combine the athleticism, the high volleyball IQ that she has, the experience that she has, you get an amazing player,” Allard said. “And I know that she is going to use and facilitate that experience very well this year and help the other girls out.”
Manning, who was named to the 2019 Sun Belt Preseason First Team, wants to move past last year's struggles.
“Last season didn’t go the way any of us wanted it to, but I am kind of grateful in a way that last season happened the way it did,” Manning said. “I have never been this hungry before and I have never wanted to win something so badly and I have last season to thank for that.”
While Manning has the championship experience, it is newcomer Mariia Levanova, graduate transfer from Syracuse, who has the most collegiate volleyball experience on the team. Levanova understands the winning tradition that comes with being a member of CCU volleyball and she hopes that she can help add another title to that trophy case.
“We know the goal is to get a ring, go to the NCAA Tournament and perform well there,” Levanova said. “I have never tried a ring on my finger before, so I hope I can accomplish that while I am here at Coastal. I want to help make this team the best.”
The Chanticleers open their 2019 season with an exhibition against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday. Coastal then opens the regular season on the road in Charlottesville, Virginia, as they take part in the Cavalier Classic. Their first match is set for 3:30 p.m. against Loyola Maryland on Aug. 30.