Over half of the Emerson women’s volleyball team will be composed of freshmen this season. Last year the Lions went undefeated in conference play and fell in the Greater Northeast Athletic Conference championship game in heart-breaking fashion to Rivier College.
However, that team no longer exists. After graduating five seniors, Emerson will now have to rely on a promising recruiting class of six freshman that head coach Ben Read said can compete for the conference championship.
“Our hopes and expectations are basically the same as last year,” Read said. “[The returning players] know it’s going to be tough because we lost so much and getting our freshman incorporated is going to be a lot of work.”
Read added that the team can reach similar heights as those of past years, but will do so in its own way.
“I think this year we are not going to run the table like we did last year and go undefeated in conference play,” Read said. “Our goal is to compete for a conference championship. It’s just going to be a slightly different path than we went last year.”
One of the freshmen the team will rely on this year is Juliana Tucker. Read said the freshman setter could be a GNAC Rookie of the Year candidate and will be integral to Emerson’s success this season.
“I think Juliana as a setter has control of our offense,” Read said. “If we are successful, it is probably going to be in large part because of her, and hopefully other coaches see that and would put her in contention for Rookie of the Year.”
Tucker, a visual and media arts major, is the only setter on the team and will have the offense revolve around her distribution, but she said she is up for the challenge.
“There is obviously a lot of pressure that comes with being the only setter, but I love it,” Tucker said in a phone interview. “I don’t feel like a freshman when I am on the court with all the girls.”
Two more freshmen that Read said will have a big impact on the team are Kat Westbrook, a writing, literature, and publishing major, and Giuli Frendak, a journalism major.
They started Emerson’s opening game as outside hitters and said the team will need time to adjust to playing together.
“I think our recruiting class brings a lot to the table,” Frendak said. “We just have to get our chemistry together on the court.”
Westbrook said adjusting to the difference between high school and college volleyball will be an important step for the freshmen this year.
“[College volleyball] is different because it’s a little bit faster,” Westbrook said. “There are no really weak people on the court like in high school.“
Tucker added that chemistry on the court is a problem for a team with no seniors, but will work itself out over the course of the season.
“[Team chemistry] is definitely not where it should be, but that’s normal considering we are such a young team,” Tucker said. “We are moving really fast with chemistry and are only going to get better.”
Frendak added that the freshmen must step up in order for this team to have success in its final GNAC season before moving to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.
“I really hope we do well in the conference, especially because it’s our last year in this conference,” Frendak said. “I just hope the team really comes together and all the freshmen can step up and do a great job.”
To accomplish their goals, the Lions will most likely have to get through Rivier. Westbrook, though a freshman, said she already knows it will be a challenge.
“Rivier is the big game the returners have talked a lot about,” Westbrook said. “We have to be on our toes when we play them.”
Emerson is 1-0 in conference play and will face Mount Ida at home on Saturday. The Lions will play Rivier on Oct. 8.