The volleyball team has three reasons why its sights are set on outperforming last season’s Eastern College Athletic Conference finish.
The three returning outside hitters, all of whom missed time last year because of injuries, are healthy this season and competing for a starting spot.
With juniors Jessica Hoeffner and Chelsea Hayes and sophomore Stephanie Lavallato missing substantial time last season, the offense had to accommodate for the gap in the outside position last year.
This season, the outside hitters have already shown what they’re capable of on the court, accounting for 49 of the team’s 87 kills in victories against Widener University and Baptist Bible College on Saturday in the championship round of the 2010 Bomber Invitational.
After dropping its first four matches of the season at the Pacific Coast Classic in Claremont, Calif. on Sept. 3 and 4, Lavallato said the team and outside hitters found their rhythm this weekend on their home court.
“It was definitely a big change from the previous weekend in California,” Lavallato said. “We finally found the right combination of people and plays to make everybody, especially the outside hitters, succeed on the court.”
Outside hitters, who have the ability to change the flow of the game with one hit, are often looked to in pressure situations. Rarely, if ever, is an outside hitter taken out, and they often shoulder most of the more physical parts of the game, Hayes said.
“We often get the ball a lot more than other players just because of the nature of the position,” she said. “We’re constantly jumping, constantly diving and constantly moving, and that was the main cause of our many injuries.”
With Hoeffner out the entire 2009 season with a torn ACL, Hayes out with an intercostals chest injury and Lavallato just recently healing from tarsal coalition, all three said the biggest challenge now is integrating back into the routine of a game.
“Being outside, there is a lot of pressure on you because you’re supposed to be the big hitter who gets the team out of a situation if something goes wrong,” Hoeffner said. “Especially since I wasn’t playing last year, I have to get used to playing volleyball and being in that atmosphere again.”
Head Coach Janet Donovan said, while having all three outside hitters healthy benefits the team as a whole, each hitter will have to do their own individual part to stay on the court.
“We’re really working on getting them in the weight room,” Donovan said. “At this point, if they don’t get both workouts in the weight room. or miss one, they’re going to be on the bench. There is enough competition in that position for even one of them to open the door for the others by missing a scheduled workout.”
The Bombers will look to carry the momentum from last weekend’s four-game winning streak into the rest of the season, starting tomorrow at the Hawks Invite at SUNY–New Paltz. With the outside hitters healthy, each athlete has to prove she deserves the playing time, Hayes said.
“I would say that the competition for all of the outside hitters is going to continue to be tough for a while,” she said. “We all have our own strengths and we have to continue to prove ourselves every day in practice and matches to earn our spot on the court.”