Much can change for a varsity team from year to year, and no team is demonstrating that better on the South Hill than this season’s volleyball team.
One year ago, the squad earned a second consecutive sub-.500 season and a first-round elimination in the Empire 8 conference tournament. But now the tables have turned in quite an unexpected fashion, putting the squad back into relevance in the Bombers sports sphere.
Despite losing half of last season’s squad and only having one senior, the Blue and Gold have raced out to 20 wins. Now, I’m not using Nike’s most recent slogan for Tiger Woods, “Winning takes care of everything,” but with a young team, it’s worth praising its success so far in 2014.
After a fast beginning to the year, the team has recently been stumbling toward the finish line with four straight losses, including to Stevens Institute of Technology and to Nazareth College on Oct. 25. However, the Blue and Gold have already clinched a record north of .500 and proved they can hang with the best as they took Nazareth, the defending conference champions, to a fifth set.
Heading into the season, the team had set some lofty goals, which included hosting the conference tournament and clinching a spot in the NCAA tournament. Before the season began, junior captain Dylan Gawinski Stern said she was expecting the 2014 campaign to be a rebuilding season.
Yet given the record and performance from the young squad, this team has already exceeded preseason expectations. Regardless of the remainder of the season, this team has already succeeded by coming together and putting the program back on the map.
After ending September with a 9–11 record last season, the Bombers opened 2014 with five wins in their first six matches and finished September at 11–3. But the Blue and Gold aren’t just winning, they have dominated the majority of their opponents, as they’ve won 15 matches in three straight sets so far this season.
Junior Carly Garone said one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround from last year is due to a closer bond among teammates, citing there was a disconnect throughout the team last season.
“We’ve all hit it off right from the beginning,” Garone said. “I feel like we’ve been controlling the momentum better than anyone else, and we set the tone everytime we play.”
Garone also said she has been a leader in calming down teammates in pressure situations during matches and making sure the team stays loose and has a consistent approach.
“There are instances where you can see that they do get nervous, and that’s the point where I try to say, ‘You got this, you’re fine,’” she said. “Even if they don’t execute, we’re a team. We all contribute to a loss. We all contribute to a win.”
Though the South Hill squad still has a few more weeks of season remaining, the team has set itself up to finish above .500 for the first time since 2011 and possibly dethrone Nazareth as the reigning champion. Regardless of the outcome, the core of this team has potential to turn around a fledgling program.
Teams change over time, but this squad is set to have success for many years down the road.