By Rob Kiser
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — All Ellie Cain has ever known is winning.
So, it is not surprising in some ways, the former Lehman Catholic and Columbus State standout has a hard time looking at her first season with Division I University of Tennesse Martin as a success.
With just half the team returning from a year ago, a first-year coach Jaclynn Yocum and a number of key transfers like Cain coming in, the Lady Skyhawks finished with a record of 9-24.
It was a stark contrast to what the 5-foot-9 sophomore setter Cain has become accustomed to.
At Lehman, she was part of a state championship team her freshman year and the Lady Cavaliers advanced to the regionals in all four seasons, wining more than 80 matches and received many honors, including NWCC Player of the Year as a senior.
As a freshman at Columbus State, playing for Yocum, Cain garnered first team All-Ohio Community College Athletic Conference honors as well as first team All-Region 12 and NJCAA All-National Tournament honors.
She helped guide the Cougars to a 34-4 overall record and a 14-0 mark in league play in 2014.
Cain handed out 1,579 assists, as her 12.53 assists per set led the nation.
She also added 93 kills on a .252 attack percentage, 47 service aces, 243 digs (1.93 per set) and 53 blocks and tallied at least 40 assists on 25 different occasions, including a career-best 70 assists in a five-set win over Kirkwood Community College on Oct. 17. Cain also had eight double-doubles.
So, this year was definitely a period of adjustment for the team — and the daughter of Lonnie and Marti Cain.
“It was kind of a rebuilding year with a a lot of new players and coach so, I did think this was probably the kind of season we were going to have, ” Cain said.
At the same time, there was no drop off in the numbers.
She was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week earlier this year and became just the sixth UT Martin setter to record 1,000 assists in a season.
Cain finished with 1,135 assists, 266 digs, 72 kills, 33 blocks and 18 aces. She was third in the OVC in assists and ranked sixth with 9.15 assists per set.
“I had to get used to all the other players, so I guess it did surprise me a little how many assists I did have this season,” she said. “Definitely, I got to know the players by the end of the season and that is going to help us next season. I don’t think it is the speed of the game. Yes, it is a little bit faster, but I think the talent of the players is the biggest difference.”
And Cain is hopeful of bigger and better things next season,
“I know she (coach Jaclynn Yocum) felt a lot of pressure and she put a lot of pressure on me, so hopefully we can have a good year next year,” Cain said.
Having a “winner” at setter for two more years is a good start.