Dominance at the collegiate level is so often overlooked, but TJC volleyball Coach Rhonda Shirley and her teams are grabbing attention.
Shirley came from a very non-athletic family. She was an All-American softball catcher at Kentucky Wesleyan College, and found her passion after being a grad assistant in volleyball.
“I really thought I was going to be a coach for softball,” Shirley said. “But I just fell in love with volleyball.”
At Hutchinson Community College to Tyler Junior College, Shirley has been coaching collegiate volley ball for 16 years. Winning seems to be the only thing that follows her where ever she goes.
“When I took the job at Hutch (Hutchison) they went from not winning a conference match,” Shirley said. “To going undefeated in conference for like four or five years.”
This being Shirley’s fourth season at TJC, she has done the same thing here starting from a not so great season her first season at TJC to showing her greatness shortly after.
“My second year here we got as high as third in the nation in the polls,” Shirley said. “Last year was my third year season and we went undefeated in conference, made it to nationals and finished fifth.”
With this accomplishment this was the first time in 12 years that TJC volleyball had been to the national tournament. The Apache women’s team is currently ranked fifth, but this past weekend they beat the No. 2 team in the nation in a tournament held at TJC where they won all four and should be looking to move up in the polls.
“Coach Shirley I think has done a tremendous, tremendous job,” Athletic Director Tim Drain said. “They got to the national tournament for only second time in our programs history.”
Shirley is a very hard working coach that expects the same in return from her players. She expressed that, from what she is seeing from her team this year, she knows that no team can look at her girls and be able to pick and choose which one is the dominant player, as opposed to last year.
“Right now the other teams are looking at us like they are all pretty solid (players),” Shirley said. “So this year I just think we have that team concept and that’s going to be hard to beat.”
On the court is just one place she pushes her girls to strive for excellence. In the classroom is where she’s recently showed her girls to compete.
“We have an Athletic Directors Academic Award that we give to the team with the highest grade point average,” Drain said. “For the first time ever volleyball won the award and she had four players with a GPA of 4.0.”
With all of this being said, what Shirley is doing for TJC should not be overlooked. It’s safe to say that the program is in good hands.
“She is a tough demanding coach,” Drain said. “But she demands excellence across the board and I love where the program is.”