ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) After six years, Rock Valley volleyball returns to the national championship tournament on Thursday in Rochester, Minnesota.
The RVC program has three national titles and if it wants number four, it will have to do it as the number five seed.
As always, the Golden Eagles are powered by local athletes like East's Mallory Hecox and Oregon's Aleah Wight.
They say it's exciting to be the ones who kick-start the program.
"In the beginning of the season, nobody really knew each other and we didn't know our coach," said Hecox. "It was just a new experience with new people and now we're all together and it's like a little family and we're all excited to drive to Rochester and win some games."
"I think for the past few years, volleyball hasn't been the number one focus here," said Wight. "The basketball team was always pretty successful, the softball team is pretty successful every year but now its our turn to make volleyball have a name and earn some respect."
Kristy Pierce is enjoying her first season as the team's head coach.
The former Eastland coach has her team just a few wins away from the program's first national title since 2012.
Pierce is hopeful that more Stateline volleyball players will see RVC as an option.
"I hope that occurs to them and I hope that they notice they can come here and this is a viable option for them, that we are a real name in the area and that we are going to be a real force just like the rest of the sports here at RVC," said Pierce. "I hope that this begins to help turn that around so kids will look to us as not only as their second or third choice, but possible their first choice of a place they really want to go."
The Golden Eagles open up the tournament Thursday at noon against Harrisburg Area.