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Georgetown College's volleyball team came into the season 11 wins shy of 1,000, and Monday night became only the fourth NAIA team to reach that plateau. A straight-game win, 25-19, 25-13, 25-19, over Mid-South Conference opponent University of Virginia College at Wise gave the Tigers another milestone.
Tigers' coach Nick Griffin helped celebrate the moment by getting everyone a chance to play.
"It was great that everyone could take part in this historic moment," Griffin said.
GC is currently 11-6 on the season and a perfect 4-0 in conference action. The team will return home after a long road stint for a 7 p.m. match Wednesday against Pikeville. A celebration of the 1,000th win is set for that evening.
Georgetown has had volleyball since the fall of 1976, including two seasons coached by current women's basketball coach Susan Johnson. However, it was not until Donna Hawkins came on as head coach in 1980, that the program truly started to flourish.
The Tigers are 1,000-316 since 1980, have made 14 NAIA Tournament appearances, five times in the Elite Eight, and national championship runners-up in 2009.
Hawkins returned to her alma mater and after going 16-13 that first year, could have never imagined the program would be what it is today.
"It was just a really raw program when I took over," Hawkins said. "But we were really allowed to do what we could and grow by Dr. Ben Elrod, Morgan Patterson and Dr. Bill Crouch. But back then I could have never envisioned this program becoming what it has."
Hawkins alone coached 797 of those 1,000-match wins. GC went to 10 NAIA National Tournaments under her and made four Elite Eight appearances. She never lost a Mid-South Conference tournament title and only once tied for the regular season crown. From 1985-1994, Georgetown won 65 straight Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matches (the conference the Tigers were in before MSC).
But it was not just about success on the court; Hawkins also valued the student part of her athletes.
Along with 30-plus All-Americans, Georgetown has had 30-plus NAIA Academic All-Americans. She had two A.O. Duer Award winners (Trina Schimmoller and Cynthia Searcy), which is an honor given to juniors that takes into consideration community service, academic success and athletic success. Hawkins also coached a Fulbright Scholar, Chris Schimmoller, who was almost a Rhode Scholar as well.
"The volleyball program at Georgetown College has always represented excellence, both athletically and academically. This collective achievement is a testament to the many years of hard work it took for us to reach this significant milestone," said GC Director of Athletics Eric Ward. "Congratulations to the coaches and student-athletes whose dedication and commitment to Tiger Volleyball made it possible for our program to reach the 1,000 win mark."
The Tigers are averaging 33.33 wins a season, have never had a losing season, have eight seasons of 40-plus wins and one season of 52 wins.
"It's special being part of a program like this," Griffin said. "To reach 1,000 wins is a testament to the volleyball program started by Donna Hawkins and the ongoing commitment from Georgetown College. I think this milestone also solidifies the fact that Georgetown remains one of the premier programs in the NAIA."
But the team that steps on the floor now, is not what Hawkins had as she attempted to build a tradition, a vision that almost took a decade for even her to see.
"It wasn't until about 1987 that I recognized what kind of program we could be," Hawkins said. "I got a scholarship to go to the national convention and the national tournament and saw the competition. I realized we could get there, and we did. It took the work and support of a lot of people. It takes a lot to nurture the foundation of the tradition we now have. I remember people used to say, and I would imagine they still do, that Georgetown has the best American team."
Hawkins spoke fondly of working with former men's basketball coach Jim Reid, as well as the faculty, staff and all the other coaches that were here during her time.
One of the big keys to building that program was recruiting. Hawkins knew she had to start attracting high caliber players, which is where she again credits the community, faculty, staff, fellow coaches and her family for really make a difference.
"People want to come here," Hawkins said. "The atmosphere, the people, it was all important to getting the players I needed and was dedicated in getting."
One such player was Nancy Hulsmeyer. The multi-sport athlete was being recruited as a high school sophomore to NCAA Division-I programs, but one visit to the Georgetown campus and she was sold. Hulsmeyer, a three-time All-American, was part of one of the biggest wins in Hawkins memory.
"In 1992 we played IUPUI," the veteran coach said. "It had just come off a season where it finished second in the nation. It had its All-American back and a lot of the team back. Then it also had a setter who transferred from Indiana University, and we beat them."
Hawkins remembers the packed gym that evening against the formidable foe and says that was not uncommon in those years, as her players were getting support from all over the campus and community.
She also had fond memories of the 1999 team that advanced to Georgetown's first Elite Eight.