By Scott Taylor
In just her second season at Lewis University, Elizabeth Hyland helped the Flyers take the next step as a volleyball team.
And, it was a big one.
The Flyers, seeded third in the Great Lakes Region, lost one set in three regional matches, including finishing off the top seed and host school, Ferris State, 3-0 in the championship.
“I have never gone that far, so it was a cool experience,” Hyland said. “We worked really hard all year and in the summer. We also love playing with each other and I think that was the other big thing for us. We are all friends on and off the court and love spending time and hanging out with each other.”
In the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, SD, the Flyers kept the momentum going as the No. 5 seed took down No. 4 seed and defending champions, Wheeling Jesuit, 3-0.
“Going into the Elite Eight, we were kind of the underdogs,” Hyland said. “William Jesuit won last year and beating them was huge. It was definitely the biggest win for us and put Lewis on the map. It was rewarding for us to go so far.”
In the Final Four the Flyers lost in straight sets to powerhouse Concordia University, St. Paul, the top seed.
The Flyers lose just three seniors from this year’s squad and just one starter, making another trip to the Elite Eight very realistic.
“That is the minimum for next year,” Hyland said. “It is huge only losing one starter. I think next year we will be even better. It is in our hands, we can make it back to where we were, or we can lose a lot earlier.”
One thing they would like to accomplish next year that they didn’t this year is hosting the regional.
“It is definitely something we strive for every year,” Hyland said. “It would be so cool to have it at home. It is always great to have family and friends come to my matches, that is one of the reasons why I chose Lewis. Having them come to regionals would just be amazing.”
The loss in the semifinals capped the sophomore season for Hyland, who says she is playing the best volleyball of her career.
“It is crazy to think I only have two years left,” Hyland said. “I am currently the best player I have ever been and that is all thanks to my coaches and teammates. It is a great environment for me to thrive in. I just have to keep working.”
In 2016 she was named to the NCAA Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team and was Honorable Mention All-American by the AVCA.
In 37 matches she finished with 405 kills, a .212 hitting percentage, 39 aces, 420 digs and 67 blocks.
“My goal is to be a First Team All-American,” Hyland said. “I would still take winning a national championship over that though.”
While she might be known now on the national level, she still keeps in touch with her former high school teammates and is proud of what Plainfield Central has accomplished.
“I still keep in touch with the girls at Central,” she said. “(Coach) Erik (Vogt) is a big reason why the program is so successful. He really improved the program quickly and I am very proud of the program. I’m happy I was able to leave my mark.”