Cowley volleyball team presented national championship rings during ceremony

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From RAMA PEROO/Cowley College

Honored for capturing its third national championship in program history, members of the Cowley College volleyball team were presented national championship rings during a ceremony held Saturday inside the Robert Brown Theatre.

On November 18, 2023, the Lady Tigers defeated the Scottsdale Fighting Artichokes in five sets to claim the 2023 National Championship. It had been 140 days between the championship match and the ring ceremony, and the program was excited that the day had finally arrived.

“This day is the day that our players have been anxiously waiting for since we won the national championship,” said head coach Steven Gream.

The team accomplished numerous feats throughout the 2023 season, including the first undefeated championship season in Cowley history and the second in NJCAA history. The team posted the best winning percentage (1.000) in school history, posted the second most wins by a Cowley Volleyball team, won the conference championship by being unbeaten in the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division (10-0), and won the Plains A District championship.

The Lady Tigers finished the season with a record of 41-0 and lost only five sets during the season. These honors and more made the 2023 season one of the most dominant seasons in NJCAA history.

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“I am very proud of our team this year,” Cowley Volleyball Co-Captain Sadie Kabisch said. “Coming in with eleven freshmen was a very new feeling, with us only having three sophomores. We knew we had a lot of talent, so it was just about working all together and working towards that common goal that we all had of winning a national championship, and it just so happened.”

The Voice of the Tigers, Scott Gurnee, was the MC of the event and was joined by Cowley President Dr. Michelle Schoon, Cowley Athletic Director Jeff Fluty, and head coach Steven Gream, the NJCAA Division II National Coach of the Year, to speak.

The crowd also had an opportunity to relive Cowley winning the national championship as they watched the fifth and final set of the win over Scottsdale (AZ). Then, the rings were presented to Cowley administrators, staff, and volunteers, followed by the players and coaches of the 2023 volleyball program.

The rings were created with careful attention to a variety of principles. Style, size, type of metal, and aspects from the 2023 season were all considered in crafting the championship rings.

“There was a lot of pressure when designing these rings,” Gream said.. “We wanted it to be very special, not only because it was the third national championship in Cowley Volleyball history, but because 2023 was such a special and historic season. We also wanted it to be a ring that would be comfortable to wear, would be a great representation of the season, and would be beautiful to look at.”

“Even in designing the rings, the players followed our team motto and were ‘With Each Other, For Each Other’ in being on the same page in what they wanted on the rings. There were no long discussions; there was just… ‘here is what we want,’ and everyone was on the same page about it.”

Each ring has the Cowley Tiger C logo on top and in the center, with seven orange stones on each side edge representing the 14 players on the roster and National Champions on the top and bottom edges.

On one side, at the top is half of the team’s motto “With Each Other”; below it is each person’s name with a gold volleyball. The gold volleyball has the players’ numbers inside or a position for non-players.

The other side, at the top, has the other half of the team’s motto, “For Each Other,” and below it is undefeated for the team’s undefeated season and the NJCAA national championship trophy in gold. The bottom of the ring has 41-0 to commemorate the record of the first undefeated season in Cowley history. The team’s standards of Grit, Accountability, Attitude, Team First, and Perfect Effort are engraved inside the shank.

“This ring is much more than just the physical representation of our 2023 season,” Cowley Volleyball Co-Captain Rossana Papa said. “For me, it’s the coronation of my journey at Cowley. It represents all the ups and downs I had during these three years. Starting from the 2021 season, which ended, unfortunately, not as we wanted. For this very reason, this ring represents the promise that I made to myself.

“As soon as we went back to the locker room after losing our final match in 2021, I looked around at my teammates, and every single one was crying. So, I promised that the same thing was not going to happen the next year. Unfortunately, that summer, I got injured, and I couldn’t play in the 2022 season. It was tough, probably one of my lowest moments, but in my head, the only thought that I had was coming back from the injury stronger than before and finally getting to keep my promise.”

Papa said the ring captures the season.

“This ring represents the hard work and determination my teammates and I put into our practices, recovery, games, workouts, nutrition, school, and everything that involves being a student-athlete,” she said. “This ring symbolizes also the concept of family, because Cowley was my home for those three years, and our team was truly the definition of family.

“For me, the ring is the end of an amazing chapter of my life, but I hope it can be the beginning of something even bigger for the Cowley volleyball program.”

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