UAFS Alumni Prepare for Inaugural Game
Some of the greatest Lions to ever dig, set, or spike a volleyball, along with many
fan favorites, will once again return to Stubblefield Center at the University of
Arkansas – Fort Smith on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, at 2 p.m.
So, what’s the occasion? The inaugural UAFS Volleyball Alumni Game will kick off the start of the semester and act as a fun tune-up for the current team before the season begins on Friday, Sept. 1, in the Newberry Invitational.
The free event will feature former players like Deb Rogers, 2018 Heartland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Anna Demmer, 2017 Heartland Conference Player of the Year, and Payton Northington (Hamilton), an assistant volleyball coach at Southside High School. Fans of UAFS Volleyball are in for a treat to see former players back in action, even if it means “a lot of missed hits, pretty slow reactions, and diving for a ball but staying there for a while because it hurts too bad to get up,” Northington joked. Head coach Jane Sargent echoed Northington by ensuring “ice baths will be at the ready.”
For the last 25 years, Sargent has witnessed hundreds of players play for UAFS, and she will soon get to coach them again. When asked if any one player who will be participating in the alumni game stands out, Sargent said both past and present players are her babies, and it would be difficult to pick just one.
“Every kid that’s played for our program has left their own unique brand on it. From the local players to our Internationals, to all the out-of-state players…they are UAFS Volleyball, and I’m excited about seeing everyone,” Sargent explained.
But Sargent isn't the only one brimming with excitement when it comes to seeing familiar faces. In her first competitive game back on an indoor court, Demmer is looking forward to seeing UAFS Volleyball fans. She hopes the game will be a chance for new and returning fans to see the successes of the program and continue to support the team. Demmer also expressed her excitement to connect with the players, past and present, that make up UAFS Volleyball.
"What's really cool about the alumni that come out of UAFS, especially for volleyball is that we all stay pretty connected. I've been able to build some relationships with some of the current players, and all we want to do as alumni, is see this program continue to win, continue to succeed, and continue to grow," Demmer said.
The alumni game will be Rogers and Northington’s first game at UAFS since their respective
graduations – an experience Rogers has had on her mind since her playing days between
2015 and 2018.
“I remember being like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be that alumni who comes back and still is really good,’ and I’m glad I have the opportunity,” Rogers said as she recounted what she first thought when asked to play. Always the competitor, she laughed, saying how some of the former players have already been working together, and the alumni are going to “kick their butt.”
As for Northington, her competitive spirit will shine on the court, but the alumni game is more about connecting with old friends, teammates, and coaches. She shared that she is looking forward to “reminiscing on all of the great times” and hopes that “the alumni game boosts team spirit by allowing the current girls to see the importance of the program and how it has had a positive impact on so many former players.”
If it weren’t for needing her arms and legs to run practice, Sargent said she’d be playing with all her players on the court. Instead, fans will see her on the sidelines doing what she does best: coaching hard and pushing every current and former player because she knows what they can do.
While the alumni volleyball game will be a fun experience for fans and players alike, what stands out most is the excitement shared amongst players to come back to the program and university they called home.
“This program molded me into the person I am today,” Northington shared. Rogers shared a similar feeling, capping it off by saying, “Once you are a UAFS Lion, you are for life.”