Within a week from one another last spring, the Hastings College volleyball and women’s soccer teams were informed that their head coaches were stepping down for new jobs. Shortly after campus was cleared for the summer, new volleyball and women’s soccer coaches were named to take over their programs.
Alex Piekarski was named the women’s soccer head coach, and the following day, Alex Allard was named volleyball head coach.
“When I received the news that I was going to be the new head coach, I was obviously super excited and embraced the challenge to uphold the high level of tradition and excellence that is here at Hastings,” Piekarski said.
The volleyball and women’s soccer teams have been under the national radar for their continued success in both programs for the past decade. With multiple Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) regular season titles and post-season titles, both programs were able to make runs into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championships last season. In 2016, the volleyball team was able to get their first ever NAIA National Championship. Five seniors remain from that season, two of whom were on the national team.
“I knew they [HC] had a great tradition of winning and I wanted to be a part of a winning program. I figured that NAIA was a division that I haven’t been a part of before, so I was really excited to experience that,” Allard said.
Piekarski inherited 18 returners, six who were consistent starters last season. The women’s soccer team went undefeated during regular season play last year and got to the second round of the national championship in Orange Beach, Alabama.
“They have had a really good growth and learning mentally,” Piekarski said. “They have been open to new ideas. At the end of the day, this program is still about the players and I want to put them in the best position possible to succeed.”
Allard has faced the challenging aspect of a young team, composed of eight upperclassmen (five seniors and three juniors) and 16 underclassmen (six sophomores and 10 first-year students). One of those underclassmen (a sophomore) suited up for varsity games along with seeing action of those games on a consistent basis last season.
Both teams came into the season with high rankings of 12th for women’s soccer and 14th for volleyball from the preseason NAIA Coaches Top 25 polls. With the new NAIA Coaches Top 25 poll rankings that came out Wednesday, women’s soccer moves to ninth with posting a record of 2-1 with both wins against ranked teams. Volleyball dropped out of the rankings for the first time since 2014, now with a 6-6 record and has officially entered GPAC play.
“Our team’s goal is to continue to challenge and win GPAC titles; then make a deep run in the national championship,” Piekarski said.
For both coaches, the goal is to keep the tradition of winning alive. Both teams will have tough GPAC conference play with seven ranked opponents for volleyball and one top 25 opponent for women’s soccer.
“(Our goal is to) make the conference tournament and to finish better at Nationals than they did last year,” Allard said.