Sharon Zavala and Crusaders continue to define consistency in their 46th year together
GICC Volleyball has shined in Zavala’s hands since she took over in 1975
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - After winning the state title a season ago, their tenth in school history, the Grand Island Central Catholic volleyball team (17-1) is looking to go back-to-back this season.
It’s all possible with the help of their not so secret weapon that has been leading the way since President Gerald Ford was in office.
“She means a lot," Junior Chloe Cloud said. "I mean, she’s the core.”
“I mean I think her record speaks volumes,” GICC assistant volleyball coach Kelsey Warner said.
"She really wants the best for us and she believes in us,” Sophomore Gracie Woods said.
They’re talking about their head coach Sharon Zavala. The same coach that has been leading the Crusaders since 1975.
“When I came in 1975 the program had been in existence for three years," Zavala said. "And I remember they had won one game in three years.”
Winning hasn’t been a problem since. In the last 46 years they’ve won 1,082 games and have made 32 State Tournament appearances. In those 32 appearances they have won the title ten times, and have finished as the runners-up nine times.
Zavala is the only coach in state history to reach the 1,000 win milestone, making her the winningest coach in Nebraska High School volleyball.
What she has been able to accomplish has put Zavala in both the Nebraska High School Athletics Hall of Fame and the National High School Athletics Hall of Fame.
Boy has the game changed since she first took over in 1975.
“I would say back in 1975, you’re looking at a volleyball game that looked a lot like what a seventh grader’s game looks right now.”
Not only changes in the skill and the way the game is played itself, but also in the opportunities for girls to compete.
When Zavala was in high school at Northwest, the only girls sports they had were track & field and cheer leading, up until her senior year. When volleyball did come that year, they only played a few games.
She accepted the head coaching job at GICC right after graduating from UNK, and said it still took awhile for girls sports to get what they deserved.
“I don’t know if they really thought (girls sports) would stay," Zavala said. "I remember the girls never could practice anytime the boys wanted the gym - so things have gotten a lot more equal.”
The head ball coach loves to win, which she does a lot of, but to her it’s about much more than that."
“You just want a positive experience, and you want them to have an experience that they can carry throughout their life.”
Zavala hasn’t changed much over the years. She doesn’t believe kids have changed either, just that they have new challenges and problems to deal with that the kids before them didn’t.
The only change she says she has really experienced from when she was a younger coach to now is what she gets most excited for. It used to be the games, but not anymore.
“I look more forward to the practice than i do actually the games," Zavala said. "Because the practices are where you can fix things and really get to know your athletes.”
Zavala says she’s extremely thankful for the school, and for her husband, who have been there with her every step of the way. As for the success, she gives all the credit to her players. However, the players and assistant coaches know just how much she has meant to this program.
“She has the love for the girls and the game, and she shares that with all of us," Former player under Zavala, and now assistant coach, Kelsie Scheel said. “Her competitiveness - even though she might not seem like she is very competitive - she has a competitive heart in her to always want to beat someone.””
“She always has the best advice for dealing with the kids," Warner said. "It’s good to have all of that knowledge, I mean 46 years - she’s got more than enough.”
It’s hard to imagine the Crusaders without Zavala on the sidelines. Eventually that time will come. Zavala said it will most likely come in the next couple years.
But that time isn’t coming just yet.
“I don’t know how many more years," Zavala said. "I’m going to just continue to take it year by year.”
In a time like we’re in right now, full of constant change and uncertainty, Zavala and the Crusaders provide a consistency that continues to go unmatched.
Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.