Following a season where the team posted a 10-20 record, the volleyball team has seen improvement already during their first two tournaments. Despite not having any seniors on their roster, the team is relying on their athleticism to compete with schools from all around the country.
They have already made two weekend trips to Illinois, coming away with a 4-3 record and a 5-3 record overall. Coach Tami Miller, now in her 16th season as head coach, talks about the benefit of traveling as a team early in the season.
“Were certainly hoping to build some team chemistry on these trips,” said Miller. “It is hard on them because of how the schedule is this year; we are in Illinois for four weekends. It’s hard on the girls because these are long weekends, but it’s great experience for us.”
Experience might be the best thing for the team early in the season, as they have four freshman penciled into their starting rotation. With no seniors, a lot of players who were on the squad last year are seeing increased roles. Miller pointed out that the youth of the team is a challenge, but definitely one they feel equipped to overcome.
One way they look to do that is by utilizing the athleticism of their team.
“From an athletic standpoint, this is probably one of the best teams we’ve had in the last five years, so when we talk about potential and what we can be, we are very excited,” said Miller.
For any young team, especially one that lost several players after last season, leadership can be an issue. Junior Kylie Osborne doesn’t think that this will be a problem due to the team’s camaraderie.
“It’s kind of weird knowing that we don’t have seniors, but I don’t think it effects the team in a bad way,” said Osborne. “The juniors are really close with the freshmen and I don’t think we lack leadership. We still mesh well together and have fun as a team.”
Osborne credited the tournament trips for not only how close the team has become, but also as a test for the conference season.
“Tournaments are a big test of endurance. We play four games in two days and all games are best out of five. It’s exhausting but if we want to do well we are expected to push through it. We need to play our last game just as well as we play our first game,” said Osborne.
The team brought in nine freshman this season in an effort to replace their departed players. Sophomore Olivia Rice knows what it’s like to adjust from the high school game to playing at the college level and looks to share that knowledge with her young teammates.
“When it comes to being a young team, the only thing that makes it difficult is experience,” said Rice. “But that can be fairly easy to overcome by simply playing and getting used to the tempo of a college game compared to high school.”
Playing time will not be an issue for the Ravens, as they will travel to Illinois two more times this season for tournaments. Coach Miller believes that these tournaments and other non-conference games will be the key to the team’s turnaround and hopefully lead to an appearance in the conference tournament.
“We were fairly realistic with our goals. Our ultimate goal is to be top six in the HCAC and make it into the conference tournament,” said Miller. “The other thing is to achieve and hopefully exceed .500 status. If we can be above .500 we can feel like we’ve made progress.”
The Ravens are already off to a great start in achieving that goal, racking up half of their win total from last year in the first eight days of their season. The team also picked up their first win over Goshen College in ten years last Tuesday winning in three straight sets. The real improvement must come in HCAC play however, as the team mustered just a 1-8 record in conference play last season.
While the squad is very excited to make a splash this season, they are also excited for what they can do next season. Osborne thinks that the team has a real shot to win the conference next year if not this year.
“Having a young team is kind of frustrating at times because you don’t have that experience, but I can’t wait for next year because we won’t be losing anyone,” said Osborne. “It’ll just make the team even better because we won’t lose any of our key players.”
The Ravens will make trips to Illinois the next two weekends and then kick off conference play against Mount St. Joseph on Sept. 29 for homecoming.