Volleyball rolling as LEC tourney nears

As they gear up for the Little Eastern Conference tournament, the women’s volleyball team has nothing but confidence in one another.

Now 18-12 overall, the players said they have grown up and understand what it means to play together as a team.

Sophomore hitter, Kaitlin Boyer, saw defensive struggles last year but said a youthful group was a major source of those struggles.

“I think defense was really one of our weaknesses, but now that we’re getting to know each other more, I feel like it [the defensive problems] was just the team being young,” Boyer said.

“But now we’re sophomores, we know each other, we’re comfortable playing with each other, and that helps a lot because you want to be comfortable playing with who you’re next to,” she continued.

Fellow sophomore hitter, Angela Silveri, echoed those statements.

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

“It was hard last year because the whole team was basically freshmen,” Silveri explained. “So, it was really hard knowing what the person next to you would do on the court. Now that we’re really close and that we know each other, it’s a lot easier.”

Playing together as a unit has certainly helped this team, as they are now 5-1 in their conference and are riding a five-game winning streak. Head coach Bob Weiner acknowledged the unity on the team and credits their two upperclassmen with helping the team find that unity.

“We’ve got two juniors who play a lot, and they’ve been great, and they more or less split the duties of leadership. Sammy Dormio is our on-the-court leader,” Weiner said.

“Samantha Branning takes care of all of the details. Things get done because Sam Branning is on top of stuff, and she’s having a terrific offensive year.”

That unselfish mind-set shows in the attitudes of some of the best players.

“It’s really pleasant because we all, as coaches in every sport, have to deal with the ‘stud factor’, where someone believes rightly or wrongly that they are the best player on the team, and needs to be treated as such, and we don’t have that,” Weiner said.

Losing to the University of Massachusetts Boston last year in the tournament is also giving the team a bit of a spark to power them through the playoffs.

“It’s a team [U-Mass Boston] that we were in the fifth set tied ten-ten, and we were that close,” Weiner lamented. “This year’s group believes we can do it.”  This confidence is not lost on Boyer.  “We know that it’s possible to beat them if we play our game,” Boyer said.  “It’s just overcoming our own mental issues.“

Weiner also knows it takes fundamentals and simple play to beat opponents.

“What you don’t want…is an athlete to have in their heads the headline ‘so-and-so fails, so-and-so hits ball out of bounds and we lose,’” Weiner said.

“If you’re thinking that, you’re not going to be successful. Let’s just talk about fundamentals, how to do things right, and the team stuff will happen.”

The team has been focusing heavily on improving their ball control and being a tougher team. Weiner preaches consistent defense and not giving away anything because of laziness.

“We’ve been talking about playing tougher, more consistent defense, but more importantly, offensively, not giving away free points,” Weiner said.  “Not hitting balls out-of-bounds just because.”

Weiner also said that the team is ready to play and showcase what they’ve learned in the upcoming LEC tournament to advance them through the playoffs.

“They know what’s in front of them,” Weiner said. “They are excited and that’s where we want to be this time of year, they have something that they can tangibly see, that they can believe they can do.”

The goal for the playoffs among Weiner and the girls is quite simple, as Boyer puts it, “Win the whole thing.”  Boyer said that this young team has never experienced something like the NCAA tournament, and it’s a learning experience they would all love.

“The NCAA [tournament] is still something new for all of us, I don’t think anyone on our team has ever been,” Boyer said.

“So it’s something that we all want to experience together for the first time and see how far we can go.”


Ray Waldron can be contacted at rwaldron@keene-equinox.com

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