“‘Success is having better problems,’” second-year Lewis-Clark State volleyball coach Shaun Pohlman quoted self-help author Mark Manson as saying. “And we’ve got better problems.”
Among the obvious successes Pohlman has overseen in his brief tenure are the Warriors’ 17-9 record in 2018 and straight-set victory against Walla Walla in their season debut last week. They return to action at 5 p.m. today at the Southern Oregon Tournament in Ashland, Ore., where they face Jessup of California.
Pohlman cites the “continuity in coaching staff,” helped by the return of assistants George Laughlin and Rex Rehberg, the recruitment of eight new players to create a balance between incoming and outgoing talent, and the benefit of returners who are familiar with his practice routine as signs the program’s tide is rising to confront a challenging 2019 schedule and a transition next season to the Cascade Conference.
“Every returner you have is like a mini-assistant coach,” he said. “I’d say the efficiency in our practices has gone through the roof.”
Among the returning leaders this season are 5-foot-3 libero Gionni Brown and 6-0 middle blocker Sydney Lawrence, both seniors.
“(Brown) is a firecracker, and I think that anybody who meets her would say she just lights up the room — lights up the team in terms of being excited,” Pohlman said. “She’s a great reader of the game of volleyball, so she always finds herself to be in a pretty decent spot to make the play.
“As far as Syd, she talks a lot. Our setters were like, ‘We really like how much Syd talks, and what she says. It gives us confidence to set her and everything.’”
Pohlman considers the Frontier Conference title to be “anybody’s game” this year, with L-C in that mix. His objectives for the team entering its final season in the conference go beyond that to include reaching “firm ground in being a national contender.”
“The dreamer and the believer in me tells me we’re capable of it,” he said of a title run. “The realist tells me, ‘Hey, we’ve got eight newcomers here who still need to get on board, that still need to understand what the process looks like.’”
Those newcomers will encounter major tests at the Southern Oregon tourney, where L-C’s foes include host and preseason NAIA No. 6 Southern Oregon, along with No. 18 Vanguard and No. 20 Jamestown.
“‘Let’s see what we’re made of,” was Pohlman’s challenge to his team entering the event.
“For some of them, welcome to college ball.” he said. “For some of them, welcome to NAIA ball, and then welcome to what it’s supposed to look like when you’re ranked.”
As a bookend of sorts to their test in Southern Oregon, the Warriors will take advantage of a late season, two-week bye in the FC schedule to compete in a nonconference tune-up at the Grand View Tournament in Des Moines in October before entering the home stretch of the season.
“I had eight weeks to fill this year,” Pohlman said of his team’s schedule, noting that openings for nonconference action would be fewer in the Cascade Conference. “We were like, ‘What can we do that keeps us on that edge and prepares us for the big goal of, we want to go to the national tournament?’”
Looking ahead to L-C’s future, the coaches pointed to the balance between classes in their roster — which numbers four freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors and five seniors — as a key to sustained quality, and noted the conference transition, while daunting in some respects, also can create new opportunities in the recruiting process.
“I think this opens up some territory for us as well,” McLaughlin said. “It’s kind of hard to get some of those coast players to come out to Idaho and play in Montana. Now that we’ll be playing closer to their hometowns and family can come and watch them, that’s been a big help. You see their eyes light up, like, ‘Oh, we’re going to play in Washington?’”
Pohlman echoed those sentiments.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re moving to the Cascade Conference, so we’ll be closer to your home.’”