The key to success

Keene State women’s volleyball is seeing success early into their season, currently holding a 11-6 season record.

“I’m feeling really good about how the season has been going. We’ve been playing for some tough teams and really holding our own,” junior outside hitter Sydney Johnson said.

Head coach Robert Weiner said the success can be attributed to the experience level of the team. With the roster being composed of a majority of experienced players, Weiner said, that history of playing at a college-level makes an impact.

“It’s amazing to me how much experience matters at this level,” Weiner said. “Being on the court at the college level and playing good teams at the college level makes you a better volleyball player. So I think experience is the key here.”

Captain Ali McLoughlin added, “Overall, the team has just been really skilled and talented as a whole.”

Weiner also attributed the success to the leadership of captains McLoughlin and Sarah Williams. “Another thing that makes the team important is good leadership,” Weiner said. “Our captains Sarah and Ali have done really good work… Sometimes when they’re frustrated with themselves, we have to remind them that’s part of who you are but it’s not your job, that can’t be your public face. And I think they both succeeded. We’re really happy with them.”

After almost two years of unconventional gameplay as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is excited to be back on the court for a semi-normal season. “I think the biggest thing is excitement just because we’ve missed out on so much for the past year and a half, we’re playing every game like it’s our last, we’ve been putting everything on the table so it’s really nice,” Johnson said.

Weiner is also fortunate to have the opportunity to play, even during a pandemic. “This is a gift. A year ago, right about this point, we were just starting to be able to practice in groups of eight and we didn’t dream we were going to get to play anybody,” Weiner said.

This season, women’s volleyball is working at refining their gameplay, specifically defense. “I hope that we can apply pressure to the other teams and not let the other teams apply the pressure to us,” McLoughlin said. “Coming out and putting the pressure on them, rather than letting them beat on us and take us down. So I think that just playing our game is really important to be successful and seasoned.”

Weiner added, “We are going to be ready defensively, we’re going to make every defensive play and make it hard to score points against us.” McLoughlin said the team’s goal is to play ‘Keene State-style volleyball,’ which she defined as, “Going after every single ball, chasing down things, playing scrappy… We pick up balls that teams aren’t expecting us to pick up and chasing down balls. Stuff like that is really just like who we are as a team.”

The definition of ‘Keene State-style volleyball’ also includes the resilience of the team, Weiner said. With starting libero Reagan Fleming out due to an injury, the team has had to adapt. “Our starting libero is out, probably for the season,” Weiner said. “We’ve had two different women playing libero force and they’ve both done terrific jobs. And it’s like we haven’t lost a step. It’s a tough defensive group and that’s Keene State volleyball.”

Johnson emphasized that the success of the team isn’t determined solely by the winloss record. The success is on a deeper level, even beyond the game stats. “We’re doing really well and even though sometimes our win-loss record… doesn’t show [it], but we’ve really been playing well this season even if we haven’t pulled out with a W for winning some of them.”

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