Success isn’t a new idea for Oral Roberts University volleyball head coach Sheera Sirola. After putting together one of the most decorated playing careers in the history of the Golden Eagle program, Sirola enters her 12th season at the helm of her alma mater poised to lead ORU back to the NCAA Tournament. With nine returning letterwinners and four strong newcomers, the future is a bright as ever for Sirola’s squad.
Having been a part of the Golden Eagle program for nearly two decades, Sirola has played an integral role through the volleyball team’s banner years. ORU has amassed a stellar 432-208 (.675) record during her 20 years as a player and a coach. Sirola helped lead ORU to eight straight NCAA Tournaments from 1995-2002, and her record as Head Coach stands at 209-133 (.611).
2013 was a milestone year for Sirola. Already the program’s career victories leader, Sirola became the first ORU head coach to win 200 matches in a five-set victory over Stephen F. Austin on October 3, 2013.
ORU went 22-7 in 2013, with a 14-4 Southland Conference record. The Golden Eagles captured early-season tournaments at Texas Southern and UTEP, giving Sirola her eighth and ninth tournament titles during her head coaching run. With 14 wins in 18 conference games, Sirola’s .778 SLC winning percentage was tops among ORU clubs in 2013.
Sirola has long brought elite individual talent to the Golden Eagle program, and 2013 was no exception. Jenks native Sara Pope was named Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year after ranking in the league’s top-10 in kills and hitting percentage. A pair of seniors, Bruna Silva and Jessica Pancratz, capped their sterling careers by joining Pope on the All-SLC Team.
Under Sirola’s tutelage, the 2013 senior class ranks as one of the finest to ever come through the Golden Eagle program. Bruna Silva ended her career as a two-time conference player of the year and ranks 2nd in program history in digs, while Laura Taylor graduated as ORU’s career leader in assists. Collectively, ORU’s 2013 seniors combined for 11 postseason awards and won 71 matches in four seasons.
Following two seasons in the Southland Conference, Sirola leads ORU back to the Summit League in 2014. She is already the conference’s career wins leader, having notched 170 total victories and 99 conference wins during her first tour of duty in the league.
Sirola battled a slew of adversity in 2012, coaching ORU to a 17-15 record, and she led the Golden Eagles to the finals of the Southland Conference Tournament in their first season as league members. A brutal early-season schedule and a rash of injuries left the Golden Eagles with an 8-12 record on October 13. But Sirola rallied her troops yet again, as ORU went 9-2 over their next 11 matches. Included in that stretch were upset victories over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Sam Houston State in the SLC Tournament, making ORU the first No. 6 seed in league history to reach the title match. The Golden Eagles fell to host school and top seed Central Arkansas in the finals, but already Sirola had left her mark on the new league.
Individual awards, a hallmark of the Sirola Era, came rolling in at the completion of the 2012 season. Bruna Silva led the SLC with 627 digs, the 5th-highest single-season mark in ORU history, and she was named SLC Libero of the Year just one season after taking home the Summit League’s top defensive award. Sheina Fernandes and Laura Taylor joined Silva on the All-Southland Conference team.
Sirola has long been known for recruiting whole person student-athlete champions to ORU, and that has manifested itself in the past two seasons. Sheina Fernandes was honored as ORU’s first-ever Capital One Academic All-American in the sport of volleyball at the completion of the 2012 seasons after posting a perfect 4.0 GPA in international business. In 2013, ORU posted a 3.42 cumulative team GPA, while seniors Bruna Silva, Laura Taylor and Jessica Pancratz earned Academic All-SLC honors.
Since Sirola took over as head coach in 2003, the Golden Eagles have collected conference accolades on a regular basis. In the last 11 seasons, 25 of Sirola’s players have received all-conference recognition, including 13 1st team honorees.
In 2004, Becky Dreher, a two-time 1st Team All-Mid-Con selection, was named the League’s Defensive Player of the Year, while Ori Zuzic earned the Mid-Con Player of the Year honor back-to-back in 2005 and 2006. Also in 2006, Thais Parada was named Setter of the Year, while Cris Alves garnered the Defensive Player of the Year award. Bruna Silva added to ORU’s Player of the Year trophy case in 2011 with her Defensive Player of the Year award, and she followed it with SLC Libero of the Year laurels in 2012. Sara Pope’s SLC Newcomer of the Year award in 2013 was the ninth individual award that a Golden Eagle has won under Sirola’s leadership.
Sirola saw ORU through its time of Summit League (formerly Mid-Continent Conference) dominance, having been a part of every coaching staff since the Golden Eagles joined the league prior to the 1997 season. During those 15 years, the volleyball team compiled a mark of 167-45 (.788) in conference matches and posted at least 10 Summit League victories in 13 of the 15 seasons after the league expanded to a 12-game schedule in 1998. The Golden Eagles also proved their superiority in the Summit League Tournament, as they held a 19-5 (.792) mark that included a string of 12 consecutive victories from 1997 to 2002.
The 2011 season marked a return to dominance for Sirola’s Golden Eagle program. ORU posted 20 wins on the season, including 12 Summit League victories, and they advanced to the finals of the Summit League Tournament for the first time since 2008. Sirola led ORU on a mid-season stretch where they won 19 out of 20 matches. ORU also took mid-season tournament titles at Kennesaw State and McNeese State.
Sirola established her place as the most successful head coach in ORU volleyball history midway through the 2011 campaign. In her ninth season leading the Golden Eagle program, Sirola became the program’s career wins leader on September 29, 2011 in a five-set win over IPFW at the Kenneth H. Cooper Aerobics Center.
ORU fell to North Dakota State in the finals of the 2011 Summit League Tournament, but the groundwork was laid for ORU’s return to dominance. Bruna Silva was named Summit League Defensive Player of the Year at the completion of the season, becoming the first ORU sophomore to win a season-ending award since 2002. The 20-win season was the fifth of Sirola’s tenure.
In 2008, Sirola produced her fourth 20-win season with a 22-9 overall record and a 13-3 Summit League mark en route to a 2nd place conference showing. ORU advanced to the finals of the conference tournament before falling to North Dakota State, who posted a 16-0 mark in league play. Danijela Novakovic and JoJo Souza earned 1st Team All-Summit League honors while Janete Ferreira and Juliane Vieira were named to the 2nd Team. Vieira was also named the League’s Setter of the Year.
Sirola earned her 100th head coaching victory during the 2007 season, a five-set win over longtime Summit League nemesis North Dakota State on October 13, 2007.
In 2006, the Golden Eagles were able to push through and win their first Mid-Con title since 2002, a first since the arrival of Sirola. In her fourth season at the helm, Sirola posted her highest win total (26) and 2nd-highest winning percentage (.743) ever as head coach. She led her squad to its best conference record since the 2002 season and its third 20-win season in the last four years. Sirola led her 2006 squad to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 and was named Mid-Con Coach of the Year.
During her years as an ORU assistant coach (1996-2002), Sirola helped produce 23 all-conference performers. She tutored three Mid-Con Player of the Year winners, including Juliana Moser, the only player in conference history to receive the honor three times.
Despite spending just two years in a Golden Eagle uniform (1994-95), Sirola put her own personal mark on the program by establishing several season and career records that still stand today. Known for her killer jump serve, Sirola set the school’s single-season record with 99 service aces in 1994, and she led the entire NCAA with 98 aces during the 1995 season. Her career total of 197 service aces still ranks 2nd on ORU’s career charts. Sirola also ranks among ORU’s career top five in kills per game (3rd), hitting percentage (3rd), and digs per game (4th).
Sirola also found success on the soccer field while at ORU, playing four games as a defender and goalkeeper in 1995. Sirola stayed at ORU and completed her undergraduate degree in physical education in May of 1998. She then became the first volleyball player to be inducted into the ORU Athletics Hall of Fame in February of 2003.