Riann Mullis, who previously served as an assistant coach at Cowley College during two national championships and a national runner-up finish, will look to continue the program's success as she begins her first season as head coach of the Lady Tigers.
Gone are four All-Americans from last year's national championship team as well as head coach Jenifer Bahner. However, Mullis was promoted to provide stability to the squad and returns five players to the team.
"I am excited to be in this role," Mullis said. "Jen (Bahner) was a great mentor and prepared me as much as possible. I embrace the challenge and want to continue the program's success as we move forward."
The Lady Tigers accomplished numerous feats throughout the 2013 season, including being ranked No. 1 in the country from the first day of the polls to the last.
Cowley finished the season unbeaten in the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division (10-0) and won its final 14 matches. The Lady Tigers finished the season with a record of 35-4 and extended its home court-winning streak to 60 matches in a row.
Mullis assembled a strong recruiting class to help make up for the loss of setter Katelynn Slade, outside hitter B.J. Specht, middle hitter Jessica McDougald, and libero McKenzie Hartzog.
"A lot of these athletes come from competitive backgrounds and had success in high school," Mullis said. "We signed this recruiting class early so they have already bought into the program and it should be an easy transition for them."
Freshmen on the team are, outside hitters Logan Porter (Newton High School), Danielle Curnes (Reeds Spring, MO), and Aliya Higginbotham (Wichita Northwest High School). As well as middle hitter Logan Morrow (El Dorado High School), setter Emily Reed (Pamona High School), and defensive specialist/libero Ali Jost (Hesston High School).
Each freshman achieved all-conference honors in high school and will battle for playing time.
"The freshmen will push the sophomores a lot," Mullis said.
Also new to the team is sophomore Kennedi Simon, who transferred to Cowley from Iowa Central Community College. Simon was named a First-Team All-Region XI-A and Second-Team All-ICCAC performer as a freshman. Simon led the Tritons with 204 blocks and tallied 193 kills and 20 service aces.
Returning for the Tigers is middle hitter/setter Lana Da Silva, who finished her freshman season with 249 kills, 90 digs and 88 assists. She also finished second on the team in blocks (71).
Libero McKenna Poynter, who led the team in aces (44) and was third in digs (351). also returns as does outside hitter/rightside hitter Shanna Witt, who finished last season with 324 kills and 36 blocks.
Outside hitter/rightside hitter Kate Madsen came on strong towards the end of last season and Shaeli Munroe has made great strides since last year as both players look to expand their roles in 2014.
Mullis feels confident in the group of sophomores she has returning.
"This group is hungry again and they want to help lead the freshmen to a national championship," Mullis said. "As upperclassmen they know the focus and leadership it takes."
Cowley will face several NJCAA Division I teams when they take part in five in-season tournaments. The Lady Tigers will open its season at the Iowa Western Tournament held August 22-23 in Council Bluffs, IA.
"It will be good to be challenged," Mullis. "Hopefully, it will help us improve as a team."
With Mullis moving into the head coaching position, former All-American setter Molley Scanlon returns to Cowley to serve as an assistant coach.
"I am excited about adding coach (Molley) Scanlon," Mullis said. "She won a national championship here as a player and knows what it takes to be successful."
Mixing the talented group of freshmen and sophomores on the team will be key to the squad's success.
"I know we have the talent, but I have always said it's the intangibles such as heart, determination, and being a close knit group that help you get it done," Mullis said. "Having a good work ethic will also be huge for us."