Two nationals. Two sports. One Year. It's uncommon for student-athletes to play more than one competitive sport in college while balancing school. It's even more uncommon for them to compete with both teams at a national tournament in the same school year. Elizabeth Coffey is an exception.
"Being able to compete in two different national championships this year was so surreal. The whole experience was amazing and definitely something that I will carry with me forever," she said.
For the last two years, Coffey has been an integral part of both the volleyball and basketball teams. This year, she had the unique experience of helping both teams win Region IV championships and compete at their respective NJCAA Championship tournaments.
A middle hitter with the volleyball team, she helped the Cyclones go 31-8 overall and narrowly finish second in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference with a 5-1 record. Her team defeated the conference champs to win the region title and compete at nationals in West Virginia, where they finished 10th in an intense run. Coffey earned All-Region Tournament Team honors.
Her run as center with the women's basketball team was hugely successful as they swept the conference 14-0 for the championship before dominating the region. All season, her team was nationally ranked, at one point as high as No. 3. They finished with a 34-3 overall record and took eighth at the national tournament in Arkansas.
"Both experiences were awesome and extremely fun. Both taught me a lot about my team. I feel we all got even closer than we were initially, if that's even possible. I also just feel like both trips were all around unforgettable," she explained. "All the games I played in, volleyball or basketball, were particularly intense and competitive. The differences between the two were in the type of intensities. Basketball is more of a physical game, and the physicality influences the style of play that has to be presented. Volleyball is more of an anticipate what your opponent is going to do next type of game."
Even at such a high level of competition, going toe-to-toe with colleges around the country, Coffey didn't let nerves catch her off guard.
"The only feeling I can associate with being in two national tournaments in one year is extreme excitement. Being presented with the opportunity to compete against the best teams in the country is such an insanely awesome feeling. Knowing that not one, but both my teams were included in the top 16 teams in the nation just validates all the hard work that everyone put in during the season truly did pay off," she said. "Truthfully, I wasn't really nervous for either tournament. The emotion I felt each time was just unmatchable excitement. In both cases, I knew my team was going to take care of what needed to be done."
Sports have always been a part of Coffey's life from the time she was little, and they have shaped her into the adult she is today. In high school she played a third sport, softball. One too many bats to the face (one), encouraged her to stick with basketball and volleyball instead.
She intends to continue playing volleyball at Converse College. Her major is biology with the intention of entering the medical field, but this experience at Moraine Valley will stay with her.
"Volleyball nationals taught me that you can go into the tournament and be a lower ranked team and still fight to move up in the bracket because you have nothing to lose and everything to prove. Basketball taught me that you can have a high rank going into the tournament, but ranking means very little when everyone's out for your team," she explained. "I think I'm really blessed to have been able to compete in the volleyball and basketball national tournaments this year. Not very many people are able to say they had this kind of opportunity. I was extremely fortunate to be part of not one but two extraordinary teams that achieved so many accomplishments."