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Reinhardt's Carlee Baxter has stepped up this season on her way to being named the Appalachian Athletic Conference Setter of the Year, and she will be counted on again in the playoffs. Special - Greg Spell

When coach Brian Goodhind took over the Reinhardt volleyball program last year, he made an immediate impact and led the program to its first national tournament appearance.

Now in his second season, Goodhind has established the Lady Eagles (33-6) as one of the top teams in the nation as they prepare to host their first postseason match Saturday against Coastal Georgia (22-11).

“This season just feel a little more comfortable for the players,” Goodhind said. “Last season with us coming in and trying to rebuild the program, we really had to establish that culture of that winning mentality. Last year really set the foundation for this season. You could see the difference in the returners this year.”

That confidence manifested itself midway through the season after an inconsistent start.

Reinhardt started the season at 4-4, but reeled off a 21-game winning streak that stretched from Aug. 31, to Oct. 23.

The Lady Eagles were just as good to close the season too, winning their final seven matches without dropping a single set to defend their conference title.

“This year, it’s been a lot of little adversity we’re always expecting as a staff,” Goodhind said. “It’s been a challenge. It’s something a lot of these girls haven’t been through before. We’re just trying to get them to buy into that nothing else matters but the game in front of us.”

Coastal Georgia comes into the match riding a hot streak too, though. The Lady Mariners have won their last six matches and nine of their last 10, and Goodhind thinks they will look very different than the team Reinhardt beat 3-1 Aug. 18.

“I’m impressed with what they did in the conference tournament,” he said. “They were a third seed and beat the top two teams in the conference. It was really impressive. We played them the fourth game of the year. It was a tough match. I know we’ve both changed a lot since then, though.”

Injuries have forced Reinhardt to change throughout the season, but the Lady Eagles have adapted well to unexpected changes.

Leading hitter Savanna Davis re-aggravated her ankle injury in the conference tournament and will miss the first round, but Emily Charbonneau has filled in admirably.

Kelly Adkins has filled in for Angel Cornista at libero, and with reining conference Setter of the Year Erinn Marroquin missing time with illness this season, Carlee Baxter has stepped in to claim the award for herself this year.

“I’ve just been really impressed with our depth,” Goodhind said. “We brought in a really big recruiting class. Early on, it seemed like a lot of girls, but now we’re really glad we have all of these pieces.”

The added depth should serve Reinhardt well over any potential playoff run.

Now that the Lady Eagles are coming into the postseason with some experience Goodhind said he expects a better chance at pulling out a win and making an even bigger name on the national stage.

“We are really focused on going 1-0 right now. We have the expectations our team is good enough to get to Iowa. We thought we could make that jump in Year 2 or 3. I think we can do it this season, but we’ll see what happens Saturday.”

 

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