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 11th season at the helm of her alma mater poised to lead ORU to its second NCAA Tournament in her tenure. With a veteran roster and the momentum of 2012’s late-season surge still alive, the future of ORU Volleyball is as bright as ever under Sirola.
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 410-201 (.671) record during her 19 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 187-126 (.597).
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 season. Junior Bruna Silva led the SLC with 627 digs, the fifth-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 complete student-athletes to ORU, and that manifested itself in 2012 as Sheina Fernandes was honored as ORU’s first-ever Capital One Academic All-American in the sport of volleyball. In addition to leading the Golden Eagles with 321 kills in her senior season, Fernandes posted a perfect 4.0 GPA in international business.
Though the Golden Eagles are no longer part of the Summit League, Sirola’s name is unlikely to fade away from the conference’s record books anytime soon. Sirola ended the 2011 season as the Summit League’s career leader in overall head coaching victories (170) and conference victories (99).
Since Sirola took over as head coach in 2003, the Golden Eagles have collected conference accolades on a regular basis. In the last 10 seasons, 22 of Sirola’s players have received All-Conference recognition, including 11 first-team honorees. In 2004, Becky Dreher, a two-time First-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. 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.
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 midseason stretch where they garnered wins in 19 out of 20 matches. The Golden Eagles also took midseason tournament titles at both Kennesaw State and McNeese State.
Individually, Sirola coached Silva to one of the finest seasons in program history. Just a sophomore, the Brazilian superstar amassed 673 digs, third-most in school history, and she became ORU’s first Summit League Defensive Player of the Year since 2006.
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 second-place showing. The Golden Eagles advanced to the finals of the conference tournament before falling to North Dakota State, who posted an undefeated 16-0 mark in league play. Danjiela 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.
The 2007 season saw two Mid-Con All-Conference selections return in Thais Parada and Jackie Oliveira as well as four non-starters from the 2006 regular-season and conference tournament championship team. Sirola picked up career win No. 100 in a five-game victory against North Dakota State.
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 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 national 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.