Goodlin, JCCC national champs
Emily Goodlin expected her Johnson County Community College volleyball team to have a good season this fall because it is one of the strongest junior college programs year after year.
Still, Goodlin, a 2005 Lansing High graduate, never dreamed she'd be a part of a national championship team. That's exactly what happened during her freshman season as the Cavaliers posted a 35-4 record and won the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national title on Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz.
JCCC upended Cowley County in the finals, 30-28, 33-31, 29-31, 30-28, and claimed the first national title in program history.
"The feeling is really indescribable," Goodlin said of what it was like to win the championship.
Goodlin said the experience reminded her of her sophomore season at Lansing when the Lions won the 2002 state championship because both situations involved lofty expectations and great leadership from upperclassmen.
"It's so weird how comparable it was," she said. "(In 2002) we had Natalie Uhart and Megan Warner who were strong senior leaders, and this year we had Emily Escher (Topeka sophomore) and Lauren Kracl (Eudora sophomore) who was the MVP of the whole tournament. They kept our team together and focused."
In addition to gaining experience playing in important matches at Lansing, Goodlin said her years of playing for LHS coach Julie Slater gave her the skills and confidence to compete for the national championship.
"I really thank coach Slater for her coaching because it really, really helped and it plays a big part in the kind of player I am on the court now," Goodlin said.
The road to the championship was a season-long journey for Johnson County. It dropped two of its first seven matches of the season when it lost twice to the home team at the Iowa Western Tournament. Then came a 19-match winning streak where the Cavaliers lost just three total games.
JCCC lost a five-game match to Cowley County on Oct. 8 and then fell to Missouri State-West Plains in a four-game match. After that, the Cavaliers rattled off 10 straight wins to close out the season.
Johnson County cruised through pool play as it disposed of Iowa Lakes Community College and McHenry County (Ill.) College. Then came a three-game victory against Central (Neb.) College in the quarterfinals.
The semifinal showdown with Scottsdale was the most nerve-wracking match of the tournament, Goodlin said. Johnson County won the first two games, 30-19, 30-24, but Scottsdale took the next two, 30-22, 30-27. The Cavaliers then fell behind in game five.
"They got to eight first, so they had the momentum when we switched sides," Goodlin said. "After that, it was neck-and-neck. I subbed in when we were down 13-12, and we pulled it off."
The 15-13 victory in game five sent Johnson County into the finals against Cowley County. The match gave the Cavaliers a chance to avenge a loss from earlier in the year, and they didn't let the opportunity pass them by.
"The relationship that we built up all season pulled us through," she said. "Every match was close, but we pulled through in every single one and we won."
The national championship capped a successful first college season for Goodlin. She was an impact freshman on a sophomore-heavy team.
"I was part of the regular rotation," said Goodlin, a defensive specialist. "There were five freshmen, and I was one of the two that got to play because we had really strong sophomore leaders."
Goodlin said she isn't sure what her volleyball future holds, but she said she is excited to chase another title as a sophomore.
After that, she may decide to go to a four-year school to continue playing.
"Possibly a small NAIA college or a small Christian college, but I'm undecided on that," she said. "I'll see how next year goes."