Volleyball adopts ‘mature’ mentality despite shaky season start

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor

Outside hitter Paz Dozie-Nnamah gears up to hit the ball.

After a shaky start to the season, volleyball is intent on forging a new identity from last year.

The Colonials (2-4) kicked off their season with a 2-1 winning record but fell in all three games of the Hurricane Invitational to clock in the same record as last year’s squad through six games. Players said that while the team is similar in makeup, players harness a more mature mentality than before.

Junior middle blocker Callie Fauntleroy said determination guides the team this season. She said the squad is focused on playing every point and executing each skill with as much power as possible.

“Our new identity this year is to be determined,” junior middle blocker Callie Fauntleroy said. “That’s our word for the year, and it’s really engulfing us as a team.”

The Colonials had a strong showing in their debut week at the D.C. Challenge, winning two out of three games. But the squad lost all three games at the Hurricane Invitational last weekend.

Last year’s Colonials also had a 2-4 record six games into the season. The squad dropped its first two games of the season before nabbing two wins in the CEFCU Invitational and losing its next two match-ups. The Colonials completed the season with an overall record of 11-15 and a conference record of 5-9.

“Last year, we started off a little rocky and it might seem like we’re paralleling this year but our teams are completely different,” Fauntleroy said. “Even though we’ve added only five people on the team, it feels like we’ve had a complete switch.”

Setter Malia Yim, middle blocker Addie Feek and outside hitter Sarah Pintel round out the squad’s freshman class. Middle blocker Caroline Sklaver and opposite hitter Paty Valle comprise the team’s two graduate transfers.

Fauntleroy said the squad harbors a heightened sense of maturity and improved decision-making on the court.

“Overall, there’s just a level of maturity playing-wise, mentally and emotionally, which is important as an athlete,” Fauntleroy said. “Everyone has matured a lot in the past year.”

Senior outside hitter Skylar Iott leads the team with 73 kills followed by Valle with 45. Both players are also tied for server aces at eight a piece. Senior setter Jaimeson Lee has also accumulated 183 assists over just six games.

On the defensive end, sophomore libero Bella Bowman tops the team in digs (72) and Sklaver in blocks (28).

Head coach Sarah Bernson said the team played well despite suffering losses. Bernson added that the Colonials’ performances against large schools and high caliber teams over the past couple of weekends should give them confidence going forward.

“Our hitting was not as effective on Sunday, and Florida Gulf Coast was really worried about our block,” Bernson said. “They really sped up their tempo. Those are examples of teams having to change what they do in order to beat us, which is a compliment.”

The Colonials committed 14 service errors against Miami but reduced their service mishaps to two and three, respectively, against their remaining two competitors for a total of 19 in their second tournament. Bernson said Valle is learning a new service style and the team needs to prevent its own errors to account for Valle’s learning curve.

“Losing by two those things add up and we’re incorporating Paty in a jump-top-spin and that’s new,” Bernson said. “She just started the weekend before. So we’re trying to give her room to make errors.”

Resembling last year’s squad, the team has struggled on the road with three of its four losses coming away from the Smith Center. Sklaver said the squad needs to be comfortable playing outside of its home court but added that said aspects of the team’s game, like serving and passing, shined during its road trip.

“We had really good serving and passing throughout the weekend,” Sklaver said. “Despite whatever our hitting percentage was, our serve was there. Our defense was also good both blocking and in the back row, so there’s just a few things that we need to fix looking forward.”

Sklaver, the middle blocker, said the team is ready to shed its reputation from last season and show competition that the Colonials are a force to be reckoned with.

“We’ve been working so hard and it’s looking really good and we’re just ready to show everyone what we’re made of,” Sklaver said.

The Colonials will look to break their losing streak at the Pirate Invitational when they face off against Norfolk State Friday at 4 p.m.

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