During her five seasons as the Northland Prep Spartans volleyball head coach, Lacey Ebersole has put together a long list of accomplishments.
After taking over the varsity team in 2014, Ebersole has led the team to postseason appearances every season she's been at the helm. She's helped expand the season again for No. 9-seeded Northland Prep, which will host 24th-ranked Leading Edge Academy -- Gilbert in the 2A Conference play-in match on Tuesday.
Prior to her time at Northland Prep, Ebersole played club volleyball for nine years and spent her varsity career at Flagstaff High School. When Ebersole came to Northland Prep, she was first hired as a junior varsity coach and eventually became the varsity coach overseeing the entire program.
“I’ve seen a real commitment to our student-athletes becoming more serious about playing volleyball during the summer, attending camps and most importantly playing club ball,” Mike Elder, Northland Prep's athletic director, said. “I attribute this to Lacey’s success in motivating our players.”
In her first year of varsity coaching, the Spartans went 15-3 in the regular season en route to a 9-0 home mark and a trip into the state tournament semifinals when Northland Prep was competing as a Division IV program.
Yet, Ebersole’s task as head coach has become one that extends beyond the court.
When she’s on the court, her practices include having the team learn the game by playing hard against each other. She believes that playing the game will teach the game.
In terms of her relationship with her players, she describes it as “very supporting and caring, but also fun and sarcastic.” Whether the Spartans are in a huddle because they’re looking for answers during matches or in a practice running drills, the smiles and laughter never leave the players.
“She really cares for her players, first as individuals, then as athletes. And they in turn care about her. It’s really a nice extended family,” Elder said.
Although this is a team that relates more as family than teammates, Thursday night the team said goodbye to four of their family members. Senior Night marked the last home match of the regular season, and the Spartans got the win in straight sets over rival Sedona Red Rock.
“My hope for the outcome of this season is that everyone on the team has grown to love the game even more,” Ebersole said. “I would like to see us qualify for the state tournament, but that doesn't take away from all the amazing times we have had this season.”
Northland Prep ended the regular season at 11-7 overall, repeating last year's record.
The Spartans will have to beat Leading Edge on Tuesday if they want to make their way onto the state tournament bracket.