Volleyball Loss Makes Players Into “New Team”

Sophomore defensive specialist Maggie Martin serves the ball as her teammates watch.

Sophomore defensive specialist Maggie Martin serves the ball as her teammates watch.

Melanie Quintanilla, Multimedia Editor

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The women’s volleyball team is changing its approach on the court after players suffered their first MAC Freedom Conference loss of the season against FDU-Florham Oct. 6.

Head coach Kelly Fry said that loss was tough. “We beat them pretty easy last year, so it was interesting to see how much their team improved.  We knew that going into it though, after watching film.  We had been preparing for what we needed to do, but we had a major blow to our team the day of the match.”

Fry is improving her team’s offense and defense by trying players in different positions and making changes to the starting line-up in an attempt to learn how to be a “new team.” She has changed the team’s serve receive from a 3-person to a 2-person and the defense from primary defense from a rotational to perimeter. She also has been more open to the use of her subs to take advantage of their strengths.

One player left the team the day of the game, and that forced Fry to make last minute adjustments for which players were unprepared, and they lost focus.  “We had to make several changes and adjustments to the line-up that day.  I knew it was going to hang over their heads what happened, but it wasn’t really clear how much until we started playing.  All three sets, we hung in there for about the first half.  We were putting up a pretty good fight, but around 15 points we would get in a rut, the other team would get a point run, and then we just couldn’t find our way back in the set.”

She said she helped players to shake off the defeat.

“I only allowed the loss to affect them for 24 hours and then told them that’s it.  They can’t dwell on it anymore.  We used the loss as fuel and motivation to fix things, to improve our weaknesses, and to look forward to what’s still ahead.  I expected the team to be disappointed because I was too, but we knew that we weren’t out of playoffs yet and that we still had a chance to prove ourselves to the conference and ourselves,” said Fry.

Fry said the team is now looking forward. “It was very disappointing because we knew we were better than that.  All we could do was move forward and prepare for the next match and that’s what we did.”

Megan Collins, junior physical therapy major, thinks players became closer after they faced the sudden loss.

“We were all going through it together, and we knew the only way to overcome the difficulties would be by supporting each other. Even though it was disappointing when we lost players and lost that game, the only thing we could do was move on, put it in the past and work to get better.”

The team practices with only 10 players. The preseason roster of 18 shrunk to 12, but two players are out with  long term health issues. Fry said continuous changes to the team–positions, lineup and more–affected morale.

“It’s taken us longer to settle into things, so I would say yes, we have suffered at times.  With less people in each position, it means that the team gets more reps, which is good because they are able to get better and make adjustments, but it also means they don’t get rest or have someone pushing them in their position.  I can really see how that has made a difference from last year to this year,” Fry said.

Team members say they are willing to try different positions and excel in them.  “Yes, as we lost some players, we had to change positions around, but everyone was willing to make sacrifices and knew what was expected of them,” Collins said.

Fry said players have to adjust to changes and cope with the stress of this demanding season.

“We know the big picture and we have long term goals in mind, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves or there will be a team waiting in the shadows to beat us.  We don’t want to take anyone for granted.  As the season progresses, we have to continue to make changes and adjustments depending on who we are facing next,” said Fry.

Fry admits that she “can be tough and demanding at times,” but she has  high expectations for her team and the program.  She wants her team to rise to every challenge and to not give up their fight to make it into playoffs and ultimately win it all.

“We know what we are capable of and everyone knows what they need to do, so I won’t settle for anything less.  I’m confident that we got our struggles out earlier in the season and that everyone will continue to do what needs to be done to fight for playoffs and wins,” said Fry.

The team used the first conference loss as fuel to bounce back and win their conference game against King’s. Players said they began to work as a team again and improve their play on the court. They say they enhanced communication on the court, kept the ball alive, increased defense and put the ball away on offense.

“I just felt and saw a huge difference in our team’s chemistry, in everyone’s execution on the court, and you could see they were having fun, too.  We hadn’t had that for a while, and it was so great to see. Everything came together, everyone was doing their job, and nothing could hold them back from playing their hearts out.”

It is imperative that the team wins conference matches in order to make it to the NCAA tournament, so players are using the conference as incentive to win both conference and non-conference games and make it into playoffs. But the team is not emphasizing conference matches, as it did in the past. Players are approaching each game as if it has equal importance. They understand, however, the significance of upcoming conference matches.

“Conference games are important because those are the games that determine whether we make it to NCAAs. It is always a good feeling to be in the top of the conference, too,” said Collins.

After all of the unexpected setbacks that the team has faced so far in the season, Fry said she is “so proud to see that they have not given up.”

“I’ve loved seeing my team’s intensity grow and watching everyone make sacrifices on and off the court.  All I want is to see more of that, and I want them to never have any regrets.  You have to leave it all on the court and know you played your very best for your team.  I believe that my team will get to see lots of playing time in November.”

Collins said that in the end, players attend every practice and every game because they love to play volleyball. “That is what matters,” said Collins.