In outer space, explosions give birth to stars.
L.C. Bird’s reemergence into the volleyball scene started in 2013 with the first-ever Conference 12 championship. Lache Harper was just a role player. This year, using her Skyhawk-like wingspan at 6-1, she exploded on the scene as a senior, leading the Skyhawks to their second conference championship in three years, advancing to the region semi-finals, a school best.
“It was very important for us as a team to win the conference championship,” Harper said. “It was our goal going into the season.”
The Skyhawks lost a lot of college-level talent from last year’s squad in Jessica Bradbury (Hollins), Julia Stech (Randolph-Macon) and Courtney Wiseman (Barton College). Losing three starters at the important positions of setter, libero and hitter left a huge void. Harper would be counted on to provide more offense and defense for her team.
“There’s always been someone to challenge to be the best player,” said Conference 12 Coach of the Year, Caroline Brown. “I don’t think she realized that this year. Once we got into some of our tougher opponents, she took it and ran with it.”
The Conference 12 Player of the Year’s sluggish start to the 2015 season was masked by the surprising play of upstarts Jazzmine White and Nautica Jones, former rec league basketball teammates of Harper’s. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Harper at least dabbled in basketball, with her brother Justin starring on the hardwood for Meadowbrook, the University of Richmond and was then drafted by the Orlando Magic, playing in 14 games in the 2011-2012 season. But basketball wasn’t her calling, volleyball was.
“I enjoyed watching my brother play, but I never really had the same passion for basketball as I did volleyball,” said Harper.
Her evolution in 2015 saw her start as a good attacker and defender and had her blossom into to the main component of L.C. Bird’s offense and defense. Though she was a first-year player and a green horn, she discovered her initial love for the game as a sophomore. Picking up the sport quickly, she’s a novice no more.
“I can remember a time when Lache wasn’t very good at volleyball,” Libero Taylor McNeely said. “It’s been amazing to watch her get better – and she’s a lot better now.”
Colleges have taken notice of Harper, as several smaller schools are interested in her services. Harper has visited one Division I program in New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). While her teammates McNeely (Bridgewater) and Grossnickle (Eastern Mennonite) have committed to school already, Harper will look to her upcoming club season to propel her to scholarship offers.
Though Harper, McNeely and Grossnickle will move on in graduation, the Skyhawks have shown they were capable of reloading in 2015. That’s what winning programs do, and it appears that L.C. Bird has built a lasting winner in a fall sport that’s not football at a school dominated by it.