Following a season in which the volleyball team posted its highest win totals since 2008, the Red aims to continue its success under the direction of second-year head coach Melissa Batie-Smoose.
The team finished last season with a 9-16 overall record, four wins better than the Red’s 5-21 2011 campaign. The Red’s sixth-place Ivy League finish last year tied its highest Ivy finish since 2009.
Senior Sierra Young, who is currently training at both outside hitter and libero, said that Batie-Smoose’s year with the team created a bond with the athletes that will help the Red in its upcoming season.
“[Batie-Smoose] had a fall and spring to train us how she best thinks we’ll be successful and knows us better as players both on and off the court,” Young said. “The team now has had a chance to understand her expectations and develop a stronger coach-player relationship.”
The Red kicks off its season with a tournament at Newman Arena against Buffalo, Iona and Bucknell. The Red is a combined 27-7-1 against those three squads, although the team has lost its last two matches against Buffalo. Last season, the Red opened its season at 0-3 after a tough three-game tournament in Colorado left the team still searching for its first victory.
“Starting off with a home tournament is very exciting for us,” Young said. “We’ve historically played well at home, and I know the team is very fired up to show everyone in Newman Arena how hard we have been working this past year. Although we do treat every opponent equally, starting off at home adds a little extra motivation to work even harder during preseason and the first couple weeks of practice.”
According to Young, one of the team’s primary concentrations early in the season has been on the defensive side of the game.
“One of our main focuses this season so far has been defense,” she said. “I’m excited to see how we’ll improve in this area because when our team funnels our focus on an aspect of the game, it can improve drastically.”
Despite losing players such as middle blocker Ana Vanjak and setter Lucy Zheng, the Red returns second-team Ivy selection Rachel D’Epagnier and honorable mention Breanna Wong. Setter Kelly Reinke, who was ranked second in the Ivy League in assists per set and as well as second in service aces per set, also returns to the team.
The Red added six freshmen in the off season, including one setter, two middle blockers, two outside hitters, and one player that has experience both at setter and right side.
“The freshman so far have been great; always ready to jump into drills, they work hard and are talented,” Young said. “It’s been a fairly seamless transition gelling as a team on the court and I know they will be a great addition to Big Red volleyball this season. Us returners are all excited to see the positive impacts they’ll have on the team as the season moves forward.”
Original Author: Emily Berman