MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Concordia-St. Paul volleyball team opens its season on Friday, and the Golden Bears are — stop us if you’ve heard this before — once again the best team in the country.
They’re the defending champions and ranked number one in the preseason national rankings.
In Brady Starkey’s 14 years at Concordia, his Golden Bears have won eight national titles — using a method and a message that never changes. If it works, why change it?
“I think the consistent message that we just try to do, and what we try to do every year is just, how hard we are working, what kind of attitude and effort are we bringing every day,” Starkey said. “And then if we do all that stuff and we put in the actual work, in our minds, we’re just gonna have some positive results.”
At one point, those results included seven national titles in a row. It’s crazy to say, but Concordia had gotten to the point where it’s weird when they don’t win a national title — which is what happened when the streak stopped in 2014 and 2015.
But the Bears were back on top again last year. And now, going into Starkey’s 15th season, they’re ranked number one again to start the year.
“We never talk about rankings. We never talk about, you know, that we’re gonna try to win a national championship this year or anything like that” Starkey said, “We don’t talk about that stuff. We just talk about, what are we doing right now? What are we going to do the next day? How are we going to get better? You know, and then just keep taking it, I hate to use the boring cliché, but day by day, and, you know, that’s kind of how we approach things.”
Each year brings its own challenges, and this year it’s replacing the leadership of five departed All-Americans off last year’s team.
“This one is probably the most that we’ve ever had to replace,” Starkey said. “I feel like we had some kids that have kind of stepped up into that position, and it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to kind of take over that this fall.”
One of the players he’s looking to for that leadership is senior Mariya Sampson.
“It’s just exciting to see kind of like the progress that everybody’s made thus far, and like, to see where we can be is, like crazier,” Sampson said. “Our coaches can transform anybody into an amazing player. And like, as long as everybody’s into that and focused on that, then they can be really, really good.”
And so can Concordia. Again.