Two members of Kansas Wesleyan’s women’s volleyball team have been Honorable Mention All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Elizabeth Hardacre (SR/Kensington, Kan.) and Rylee Serpan (FR/Spring Hill, Kan.) were recognized for their performances during the 2022 season. Hardacre and Serpan were also Honorable Mention selections on the NAIA/AVCA West Central Region team and was Serpan was Freshman of the Year.
Hardacre, a middle blocker, and Serpan, a right-side, were named First Team All-Kansas Conference and Serpan the Freshman of the Year last month.
“I’m so excited for Libby to close out her volleyball career as an All-American,” KWU coach Jessica Biegert said. “Going to (NAIA) nationals really helped her All-American reputation. It’s good to see her get rewarded and I’m proud of her growth these last four years.
“Rylee was the secret surprise. She came in and surpassed all expectations as a freshman. I knew she would be KCAC Freshman of the Year and All-American honors prove she was a huge factor in our success. She has a very bright future at KWU, the KCAC, the region and the NAIA. I’m excited to see it play out.”
The West Central Region includes the Great Plains Athletic Conference that had seven teams compete in the NAIA National Championship.
“Libby is a fast-tempo middle offensively, she does well blocking defensively so she’s just very versatile in her two roles as a middle,” Biegert said. “Serpan is so good because she’s a left-handed right-side that can hit that cross corner and it’s very hard to defend. Josie (Deckinger) does a really good job of setting her when it’s not predicted. She’s very versatile with her shots.”
Outside hitter Morgan Bryand (SR/Wichita, Kan.) was also named All-KCAC First Team. Deckinger was a Second Team selection, outside hitter Maddy Beckett (SR/Halstead, Kan.) and defensive specialist Kelsey Hund were Third Team and defensive specialist Alli McGowan was recognized as a Champion of Character.
Additionally, 10 Coyotes were chosen Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes, 13 were KCAC Scholar Athletes and KWU received an AVCA Team Academic Award for the 13th consecutive season. Six were named KCAC Players of the Week during the regular season.
Wesleyan finished the season with a 28-7 record, 10-2 in the KCAC, and won the conference’s postseason tournament championship – the first since 2014 – defeating Saint Mary 3-2 in the title match. The Coyotes downed Oklahoma Wesleyan 3-1 in the semifinal. It was just the third loss of the season for the Eagles.
Finally breaking through in the postseason was huge for the team’s seven seniors after enduring losses in the quarterfinals the previous three seasons.
“Our values of chasing diamonds through authenticity, strength and brilliance defined who we are as a team and individuals on and off the court,” Biegert said. “We stayed true to them and we won the tournament due to how tight and how much love we gave to our teammates.
“They went in (the tournament) always knowing we were going to win, we talked about it all year, we set our values around it. They went in with all the confidence of nothing to lose and they pulled it off.”
Defeating OKWU was pivotal, Biegert said.
“That felt like the championship. We had to play so hard, so strategic, so smart. We played twice that day which we hadn’t done in a while so it took literally everything out of us physically and emotionally to win that game,” she said.
Biegert said the tone for the season was set in mid-September when KWU defeated defending conference champion Ottawa 3-0 in a non-conference in Ottawa.
“We went into the game saying ‘this is the defending champ, this is the standard we’re going play to right away and the bar doesn’t go over it the rest of the season,'” she said. “That was definitely a turning moment for us and beating them in three gave us all that confidence.”
Six of the seven seniors arrived at KWU the same year Biegert did.
“They were factors right away as freshmen so we really had to develop this program around them,” she said. “By their senior year they set the standards very high, the expectations very high. They each had a different leadership skill that contributed to the team. My children grew up around them so we just all feel like we grew up together in the four short years.”
Biegert said their impact will be felt for years to come.
“They left a legacy of leadership, campus involvement, community service and characters of champions,” she said. “The standard is set high thanks to them.”