Just one year ago, the Ithaca College women’s volleyball team was in turmoil. Some current and former players were displeased with how head coach Janet Donovan ran the team, and despite her success on the court, athletes voiced their discontent with the program. Ten months ago, Donovan resigned. While the players might have had some sort of resolution, they were left without a coach.
One month later, Johan Dulfer from Clarkson University was hired to take the reigns of the program, just months after it went 30–9, Clarkson won a Liberty League championship and made an appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Donovan left behind quite the legacy on the court, as she accumulated a 674–295 record. But Dulfer has an impressive track record of his own. In 10 seasons at Clarkson, he led the team to a 270–115 record with seven straight NCAA tournament appearances.
With an entirely new system implemented, it would be understandable if the team had struggled for a few months.
Instead, the team has thrived. Despite having just one senior and five juniors, the team’s youth has been successful under Dulfer’s leadership. A mix of respected veterans and talented young players is the key to success for any team, and Dulfer has just that on the current roster.
After losing twice in the opening tournament of the season, the Bombers have been riding a hot streak since late-September. What’s rather impressive about their start is how many of their victories have been sweeps.
In the North Country Season Opener, the Bombers’ first two victories of the season were three-set sweeps of St. Lawrence University and, fittingly, Clarkson University. In the following tournament, the Blue and Gold swept all four of their opponents, including the previously undefeated DeSales University.
Since then, the Bombers took down 14th-ranked Carnegie Mellon University and picked up a sweep in their first Empire 8 Conference matchup against Elmira College. However, there have been a few bumps in the road.
The team’s last two losses were sweeps, as it fell to 13th-ranked Eastern University and Stevens Institute of Technology in matches that were not close in score.
But that’s to be expected when a team is learning a new system from a new coach, with plenty of new players aboard the roster. It’s not a given that the Bombers will replicate their success from last season immediately, but Dulfer’s presence signifies a new era for Ithaca College volleyball: one that has the potential to be an era of consistency, respect and winning.