By ZACH WOHLEKING
The University of Mary Washington volleyball team recently competed in the Haverford Invitational tournament in Haverford, PA and went undefeated winning all four games they played in. This accomplishment is just one of many they will most likely have during this years season.
This is a clear indicator that the volleyball girls are very serious about this year, and will most likely let their opponents know that through their play of the court. To get a closer look and more information on the mindset of this years team I talked to junior captain Jenna Yost on the current state of the team.
Going into this year, what has been the biggest adjustment for you and your team, if any? “Coming into the season I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about the number of incoming freshman we had. We had created a very specific atmosphere over the last two years and were somewhat worried that 8 freshman could really shift that atmosphere into something less than productive. But this was and is definitely not the case. The freshman are extremely hard working and just as dedicated to winning and improving the team as our returners are.”
During the tournament, how was the atmosphere surrounding the team?
“At times I could definitely feel that our younger players were nervous because it was our first tournament. But we are very good at instilling confidence in each other. The nervousness transformed into excitement and confidence as the tournament went on and we were able to demonstrate our athletic superiority to three top 30 teams.”
What are the teams biggest strengths going into the season? Biggest weaknesses?
“We have a pretty deep line-up which is something that we have never really had before. Last year our team ended the season with only 11 girls, if someone got hurt (which they did) they had to play through the pain and our play suffered because we did not have any subs. Now all of our players are ready to step in at any moment when another girl is having a bad game or someone gets hurt and we are able to adjust and continue the game playing as strong as ever.”
What do you guys do to prepare the freshman and transfers for the season?
“We had an extraneous, mentally and physically exhausting 10 days of preseason before our first match against one of our rivals, Randolph Macon College. During this time we have extensive informational sessions educating the freshman on the team dynamic and the standards that we expect each player to meet. We also have personality testing to better the team atmosphere and get to know each other better. We also eat lunch and dinner together everyday to increase the comfortability factor of the team. In addition to that we had two physical practice sessions a day to improve our fundamentals and conditioning. lastly we have many physical tests that everyone must pass or they are unable to play on the team.”
What is the main mindset going into each game, how do you look to breakdown your opponents?
“We spend time in the team room going over film and scouting each team. We hone in on our opponents best players and design a defense that will best stop each team. After watching film volleyball, sports 9-7 we go through practice as if we were playing that team and practice that specific defensive set up we will play with and work on the offensive tactic that will take advantage of the opponents defense as-well.”
How is the chemistry within the team? How do you all best work together?
“The volleyball team has extremely good chemistry. this is probably one of the biggest contributors to our success. It is very important show vulnerability to ensure closeness and increase trust between team members. This is simple sports/group psychology and something that our coach and captions have worked hard to instill on the team. We spend a lot of time together outside of volleyball and can count on each other off the court, which leads to the ability to trust each other on the court. You need to be able to know that your teammate will do their job and trust that they will pick you up when you need it most.”
What would you say is the teams biggest flaw right now? and how do you plan to overcome this?
“I think that if we have any weaknesses it would be our youth. We have a relatively young team with only four upperclassman out of our 17 girls. Sometimes we struggle with implementing strategy changes in the middle of a game because we just do not have the experience necessary to think on the fly. But it is very early in the season and our freshman and sophomores are very capable and I have complete confidence that they will be exceptional students of the game with a little time and effort.”
Going into your third year, you must be very familiar with the grind of the season, what advice would you give to the younger players who are still adjusting?
“Haha oh wow. I would say stick it out. There are times when it gets really tough, when it seems like you can not do anything right, or like you are never going to start, or that coach does not like you. Just give everything you have, 110 percent effort and your effort will be recognized. You may not be where you want to be as fast as you may want to get there. But it does get easier, and if you have a passion for the game it never stops being fun.”
Before we finish, Anything you'd like to say to all the students out there?
“Thank you so much for all your support of our team. We only have about five home games this year so please make sure you come out. Our program is truly the best it has ever been in UMW history and if you would like to experience history being made come out and cheer your butt off., don’t worry; you will be entertained”