After consecutive runner-up seasons to rival University of Massachusetts Boston, Head Volleyball Coach Bob Weiner is hoping that 2014 is the year for his team.
To start, the team kept everyone from summer tryouts on the team, including nine freshmen.
“We made a decision to keep everybody,” Coach Weiner said, “We want to give these freshmen a year to develop to see what they can do, because who knows what we have.”
Five of the nine freshmen were heavily recruited, but the other four have quickly established themselves as surprise key-players on the team.
“It’s been really cool to see the freshmen take the responsibility and the leadership,” junior Alexis Michal, a captain on the team said.
“Some of them we didn’t even know about … but they came in, gave it their all and we’re glad to have them,” Michal said.
With an injury to starting outside hitter Brooke Hatanaka before the season started, freshmen willing to work hard was a good sign. Hatanaka, a sophomore, tore her ACL and will be out for the season.
“Great player, she worked so hard for her starting position … I knew we’d miss her, but I didn’t know until after the first week just how much,” Weiner said about Hatanaka.
The influx of youth on the team, as well as a big injury, meant some veterans needed to step up.
With only one senior on the team, players like Michal have had to take on a bigger leadership role than usual.
“The freshmen come looking for advice non-volleyball related as well as on-the-court,” Michal said.
To stay positive after a string of tough losses to start the season, the team has made sure to communicate with each other.
“We got together and just talked about everything we need to work on — a lot of communication for sure,” Michal said, referring to what the team did after their losses against Wesleyan University and Bridgewater College at the Captains Classic hosted by Christopher Newport University in Virginia, Aug. 29 and 30. While being very successful the past few years, the volleyball team has come up just-short multiple times.
“I expect a tremendous amount of hard work and effort no matter who is on the court,” freshman Katie Cunnigham said.
UMASS Boston has won five-straight Little East Conference championships, including back-to-back championship game victories against Keene State, so this is no easy feat for the Owls.
“It’s got to break sometime, and it’d be great if it was this time,” Weiner said.
But losing against the same team over and over forces good coaches to make changes and that’s just what Weiner has done.
“The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Weiner said. The multiple position changes gives the team a whole new look. Michal confirmed the big changes Weiner talked about, as she’s moved from being a setter to one of the team’s defensive specialists.
A 3-1 victory against Westfield State on Wednesday Sept. 3 was a step in the right direction for the team.
“This is our year,” Michal said.
Skylar Frazer can be contacted at email@example.com