Multiple red doors contain the noise of an athletic session inside Spaulding Gymnasium. As a door squeaks open, one cannot help but pan from left to right across the barren hardwood. With banners hanging on all four cement walls, only the fans above are heard with each spin of the turbine, but then elements suddenly change.
After, one by one, the young team enters single-file. Some with laughter and smiles, others with looks of determination; within minutes, two nets are placed into the floorboards and bins of Molten Supertouch volleyballs are rolled out as the team begins another afternoon workout.
According to Coach Robert Weiner, the Owls volleyball program has a reputation in the Northeast for holding its own. However, after the loss of six seniors, including All-LEC players Bridget O’Bryant, Ellyse Davis and Laurie Whalen, he said he has to admit that there are large shoes to fill.
The Owls, who currently sit under a .500 winning percentage, don’t lack confidence and optimism.
“Our goal is to remain where we’ve always been, which is among the elite teams in the Northeast,” Weiner said. “Hard to do when you’ve lost your entire starting lineup and virtually everyone you expected to step up into those roles.”
“We’re reloading, not rebuilding,” Weiner said. With that mentality in mind, Weiner, now in his ninth season as Owls head coach, had to look for a solution to patch together the giant hole in the ground known as his roster. He recruited and brought in a total of nine freshmen to join the squad in efforts to “reload” the program.
In fact, this is not the first time Weiner and his staff have had to do this. Back in 2008, he brought in eight freshmen and a lone transfer to fill the void. The result that season was a conference championship for the Lady Owls.
Thus far, the starting lineup for the Owls is topped with some of the returning players. Yet for the early part of the season, the work has not been getting done well enough to the Owls’ liking.
During practice on Tuesday, Sept. 11, Weiner put some of his new plan into action by previewing that the next time Keene will be at home; there will indeed be a freshmen-heavy lineup on the floor.
“We’re going to have a major lineup shake-up, ” Weiner said. “If we go two-and-five in the next seven, we’ll do it again, because we can. We have the personnel to do this, they just haven’t figured out how to play together.”
While still being in the young part of a season, the undeveloped Owls have had some great production thus far. Notably, Angela Silveri (Poughquag, N.Y.) and Kaylee Deluga (Dennis, M.A.) were stressed by Weiner as two of the newcomers that have met and exceeded expectations to date. Silveri is distinguished as an all-around athlete by her coaching staff with abilities to do anything on the court. Deluga, hails from Barnstable High School, one of the most powerful programs in the entire state of Massachusetts and was selected in high school as the Boston Globe Scholastic Division I player of the year.
Silveri currently leads the team in kills and kills per set. “We’re having a good time,” Silveri said. “We just need to click. It’s the beginning of the season and we all haven’t gotten to know each other that well yet.”
After searching and searching for a replacement setter with Laurie Whalen now graduated, the Owls went with a different approach by implementing a two-setter system. Haley Willumsen (Shelter Island, N.Y.) and Alexis Michal (Windham, N.H.) were brought in to take over the role of providing “hands” for the team.
The dual-setter system hasn’t been used by Weiner very often in his coaching career at Keene State but he said felt it would better the team to give them more options.
Weiner also indicated that Kaitlin Boyer (West Greenwich, R.I.) may take over the starting role as the Owls libero.
Boyer said that the new freshman class has well-rounded characteristics in all aspects of the game.
“He knows all of our key components therefore he uses all of our individual abilities in ways that they need to be used on the court,” Boyer said. “We all need each other.”
A scrappy Kaitlin Boyer and an energetic Angela Silveri said they would both love for better communication on the court.
“Once we get from how we play in practice to how we do in a game, we’re going to be unstoppable,” Boyer added. “We can be as good as, if not better than, anyone else.”
The Owls continue to “reload.”
They won their first Little East Conference match on Saturday, Sept. 15 against Rhode Island College, 3-0.
Brian Schnee can be contacted at