August 31, 2010

Volleyball Team Expects Improved Results in 2010

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While the volleyball team won’t see competitive play until the Cornell Invitational matches later this week, the team has already come a long way since its 2009 season. After finishing with a 6-19 overall record and sharing the sixth-place spot in the Ivy League last year, the Red showed a need for improvement on the court at the close of last season — an improvement the team feels it is accomplishing through its rigorous training schedule.  Senior co-captain Erin McCarthy explained that the team didn’t lose momentum at the end of the 2009 season, but continued improving to prepare itself for fall competition. “As of last year, we hit the ground running after the season ended,” McCarthy said. “We had a lot to improve on and we’re just really focused on getting better for this year and proving ourselves this season.”Head coach Sarah Bernson shares McCarthy’s outlook that the players are more fit and prepared to play as a team unit this year as a result of plenty of off-season conditioning. “We are exponentially farther along,” Bernson said. “We ended the season and progressed through the spring, and then we’ve continued progressing from that point on. I feel like we’re two seasons past where we were last year because we’ve had spring season to build upon it.”As head coach for the Red, this is Bernson’s second season—and she’ll join 13 familiar faces of returning players. Though three key starters were lost to graduation, this team remains a fairly experienced one. Adding to the mix are six new freshmen players, eager to gain playing time. Meshing the returning and new players into a cohesive team unit has been a focus during the past couple weeks of team training. “You never know, especially when you have a large returning group coming back, if it’s going to be a schism between the returners and freshmen, but the freshmen have folded in nicely,” Bernson said. “We already are a group of 19, and not a group of 13 and six.”It is crucial that the players not only excel in their specialties and positions, but can work together to effectively stall their opponents. Adding in new team members can make this a bit trickier, and that’s why the team has been preparing as a unit and working on the team’s system of play.  “We’ve been practicing our system, getting everyone on the same page and getting the freshmen acquainted to our system,” McCarthy said. “They have a great attitude as a group and have definitely come in and stepped up as a class in general. They’re working hard in adding to our team.”The new freshmen players have taken the challenge, and have been working well with the returners in practice. “They are competitive and they work extremely hard, so we’ve been able to go full-system right off the bat, and their competitive natures have allowed them to compete and figure it out as they go along,” Bernson said. More specifically, the new players will bring more hitting depth to the team.“We purposefully brought in six hitters to help with the depth of our hitting core. We’ve been battling some little nagging injuries, so having a little bit more depth has allowed us to compete in practice day by day,” Bernson said.While each of the new players will see opportunities to get on the court this season, Coach Bernson singled out two particularly promising freshmen. “Sierra Young’s ball-handling will come into play and allow her to get some playing-time, and I think Janel Forte will have an opportunity to play on the right side, especially if we go to a 6-2” Bernson said.The junior and senior class players claim a large role in keeping the rest of their team motivated and in lending their experience with collegiate level of competition on the court to the newer players. Coach Bernson points out that these upperclassmen lend guidance from both on and off the court.  “Erin and Alessa [Cekauskas], the seniors, have been playing and made a start as freshmen, so they have the most competition experience, and the junior class as a whole is probably the emotional leaders of the team. Everybody has their kind of niche and role. They’re either a leader for their position and help with position unity. Some are more vocal than others and check on players off the court,” Bernson said. Beyond incorporating the returning and new players on the team, a focus in practice has been on improving system execution.  “I’d like to get to a point where we can be confident in running either a 5-1 or a 6-2. We’ve run a 5-1 in the past couple years, so we getting comfortable in running a 6-2 will be a goal. We could go either/or without having too much of a change in tempo or play,” Bernson said. The upcoming matches will be a chance for the team to both measure itself up against its competition and to see where it stands in terms of preparedness. “We hope to get stronger as each game progresses,” Benson said. “We were very roller coaster last year. We’ve had some great matches and some down matches throughout the season, so we definitely want to be steady and hopefully get better in each match.”

Original Author: Laura Dwulet