The pot keeps getting sweeter for the Northwest College volleyball program.
Lady Trappers head coach Shaun Pohlman and freshman outside hitter Aleksandra Djordjevic were honored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the National Junior College Athletics Association this week, tabbing the coach and his Serbian star with prestigious awards.
Pohlman was named the West region’s Coach of the Year by the AVCA, becoming one of four coaches from four regions to earn the award this season. Pohlman’s selection qualifies him for consideration as national coach of the year, and is an accolade he can add to the Region IX Coach of the Year award (his second) he earned in early November. Pohlman’s recognition should come as no surprise. He led No. 13-ranked NWC to a 30-10 record this season, including a Region IX Tournament title and a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA National Volleyball Championship in Casper.
It was there that the Trappers knocked off then No.1-ranked Iowa Western Community College to reach the final four.
Still, even in a season filled with highlights, Pohlman was surprised by the award.
“I’m honestly shocked,” Pohlman said. “Obviously, I’m extremely thankful and grateful to the committee, but it’s definitely surprising.”
After just his fourth season as NWC’s coach, Pohlman said the AVCA award has provided insight on where his career trajectory is headed.
“It’s a hard concept to grasp that this is where I am in my career,” he added. “With the quality of coaches that are out there ... coaches with more experience ... this honor is very humbling.”
Pohlman made it a point to acknowledge those who helped him along the way.
“I cannot thank enough people in a small newspaper article,” Pohlman said. “My wife, assistants ... former and present ... the fans, there were some alums … administration and mentors that I have had. Past players from NWC and Dodge City (Kan.) that shaped me. I can’t limit my appreciation to a few people.”
Like Pohlman, Djordjevic will add to her trophy case for the second time this season after acquiring Region IX Hitter of the Year and Player of the Year honors last month. The 19-year-old Serbian-born phenom was named an NJCAA Division I First-Team All-American this week before earning First-Team All-American honors through the AVCA as well. Where the AVCA award differs from the NJCAA moniker is the selection field. The AVCA award is chosen from a pool of all NJCAA athletes, DI through DIII, so Djordjevic’s selection came from a much larger field of competition.
“I knew she had the potential all along,” Pohlman said of Djordjevic. “But she would be the first to say ‘I couldn’t have done this without my team.’”
Pohlman was right.
“I can’t play alone. My teammates are my life,” Djordjevic said of her teammates impact on her season. “My team and coach helped me a lot because I had so much to learn here. They helped me, so I played for them.”
Djordjevic was fourth in NJCAA DI’s national rankings with 550 kills this season. She was also ninth in kills per set with 4.01. It became a common occurrence for her name to appear atop the NWC stat sheets match after match. Still, much like her coach, Djordjevic was shocked by the award.
“I’m really surprised,” she said. “I worked so hard in Serbia to come here and play, but I still never expected anything like this. “Now, I’m just so excited for next season, because we will still have such a great team and I love my team so much.”
NWC’s performance at the National Volleyball Championship, combined with the recent individual awards, could mean big things for the Trappers and Pohlman in terms of recruiting for next fall. Pohlman said the fruits of his and his team’s labors are finally starting to fall.
“You work really, really hard ... I don’t know that I’m working harder than other coaches, but I’m working hard,” Pohlman said. “And the girls, all of them, they worked hard too. And it’s nice to see that a couple of weeks after the season ends, we’re still as well.”