The Trinity volleyball team returned to practice this week after winning the Team Academic Award from the American Volleyball Coaches Association during the offseason. The Tigers earned the award for maintaining a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.30 on a 4.0 scale.

According to head coach Julie Jenkins, the team’s cumulative GPA was a 3.51, which was the highest amongst all women’s athletics teams last year.

“We all take our classes seriously, so it’s great to be rewarded for that,” said Erin Cusenbary, senior middle blocker.

The average GPA for all other women at Trinity last year was 3.29.

The high academic achievement of this team reflects their work ethic during practice and success on the court in recent years. Last season, they advanced to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 for the 11th time in program history, and they won their 16th Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title.

The Tigers will follow up their recent regular season and post season successes with the presence of a strong core of senior leaders and returning starters this season.

“We have the talent, we have the skills, we have some new faces on the court, but we also have a lot of players returning,” said Maggie Emodi, senior outside hitter/middle blocker.

“We can help the rest of the team and help them get better because we have that experience,” Cusenbary said.

Their experience gives them confidence in their ability to compete during the regular season and win in the SCAC Championship.  It is one of the strongest volleyball conferences nationwide in Division III, and at least two teams rank in the top 25 in the pre season poll each year.

This season, the Tigers’ goal as a team is not only to repeat their SCAC Championship win, but also to win a national championship. They believe they have the talent and experience to make that goal a reality.

“They’ve been there, they’ve done it, they’ve had the experience and I think we will make the next step,” Jenkins said.

The Tigers entered this pre-season ranked 13th on the AVCA Division III Coaches Poll after finishing last season ranked 15th. However, the ranking is only a number that motivates the players and coaches.

“All that matters is the season and what you do with it. We have our eyes set on a national championship,” Emodi said.

This season, the Tigers will face six teams ranked in the top 10 in the pre season poll.

According to Jenkins, “it’s probably one of the toughest schedules we’ve ever played. By playing that tough schedule we position ourselves to have the confidence to [win it all].”

You can see the Tigers in action for the first time during the Trinity University Fall Classic, held in Sams Gym on Sept. 12-13.  Their season begins on Friday, Sept. 5,  at the California Lutheran Invitational, where they will face Emory University (Ga.), Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.), Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.), and California Lutheran University (Calif.).