UNA volleyball ready for DI

Noah Catchings, Sports Editor

The University of North Alabama hired Tristan Johnson as the new head volleyball coach this season. UNA volleyball has undergone many changes since last season includes facility upgrades, staff changes and new coaching methods. The volleyball team has struggled in the past two years with 1-13 in the 2020 season and 9-20 records in the 2021 season. 

Johnson graduated from the University of Alabama in 2014, and according to RoarLions.com, has 11 years of collegiate coaching experience with big-name universities such as the University of Alabama, Southern Illinois University and Arkansas State University. 

As UNA enters the NCAA Division I, the Lions have the opportunity to compete for championships Johnson’s experience in coaching is crucial to help position the Lions towards a championship.

“When I first arrived here in January, it was really important to establish the culture and the expectation of what we wanted to do to get this program back to a place where it’s been in the past,” Johnson said. 

Since his transition to UNA, Johnson has brought in five new players who he believes will help the Lions make an impact right away. He has also added two assistant coaches to his staff: Abby Irvine and Caitlin Bullock. 

Caitlin Bullock has head coached at the Division II level for men’s and women’s programs. She also worked at Appalachian State. 

Abby Irvine played at the University of Houston before finishing her time as a player. She also worked on staff at Liberty University. 

With an influx of coaching experience coming to UNA volleyball, fans can expect key players from the roster to make an impact. Johnson named several players Lions fans should look out for. 

“I think Taylor Floyd is going to be a player that people are going to notice right off the bat,” Johnson said. “I think Taylor is a girl that plays hard with a lot of passion.” 

Taylor Floyd played four years at Belmont University and was their leading scorer Floyd was also an all-OVC player for four years.

Taylor’s sister, Katy Floyd, was an all-freshman player at UNA for the ASUN last year. Johnson expects the Floyds to do big things this season.

Ella Ratzloff is a fifth-year COVID transfer from Rhode Island whom Johnson recruited while she was in high school. Throughout her time at Rhode Island University, she accomplished feats: in the 2021 season, according to gorhody.com, she became the university’s first player to achieve 1,500 digs, and she also ended the season ranked 10th nationally in total digs. Overall, she is a skilled player who Johnson expects to take part in changing UNA volleyball this season. 

“I think she’s a player that’s going to do a lot of special things here,” Johnson said.

Maggie Sullivan is also a key player to keep an eye on. She ended last season with a total of 221 kills and 57 blocks and spent significant time over the spring preparing for this season. Fans should keep an eye out for the big things she will accomplish this season. 

“[Sullivan] is a leader on and off the court,” Johnson said.

Overall, the whole volleyball program has undergone significant changes that position the team for a hopeful season. 

Volleyball has total of 16 home games this season and the games will also be live and available to stream on ESPN+.