As the women’s volleyball season commences, the team looks to focus on its young core’s energy to carry them through the year.
In 2018, the team had an overall record of 15-14 and finished ninth in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference with a record of 2-8. The Lions won off of the court when the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association awarded the Lions for academic excellence.
Head coach Ben Read said the team stayed competitive last season despite many injuries.
“You kind of expect some [injuries] here and there, but to have three starters out and then have a backup go down I think was ridiculous,” Read said in an interview. “We showed that we were able to compete [last season] despite being down.”
The 2019 roster features nine freshmen, and Read said they are ready to step in and make an impact.
“We had some people who were coming in that needed to replace some graduating seniors and give us more depth and competition in practice, and make us better in games,” Read said. “That’s what we were expecting and that’s what we’ve gotten so far.”
Read said that freshman setter Caroline Bond has impressed him over the first few weeks of action with her skillset and in-game adjustments.
Bond said her competitive spirit and aggressiveness on the court pushes her to go take risks.
“I try to get every ball,” Bond said in an interview. “Sometimes I try to get a ball that I know that I can’t get, and that’s something that I really try to focus on in the gym. Every ball is an opportunity to get better.”
Bond also said she enjoys the strategic aspect of volleyball, which fuels her passion for the sport.
“I just love the mental game that you need in order to be a successful player,” Bond said. “Being a setter, I love thinking of ways to outthink another team.”
At the beginning of the season, Bond said she was a little skeptical about how the team would get along.
“It’s weird sometimes—I’m not gonna lie,” Bond said. “When we first came in, I was like, ‘There’s nine freshmen, I don’t get how that’s going to work,’ but I think we got very lucky with the types of personalities that span across the freshman class. We all love each other, so it’s all super cool.”
Three upperclassmen are tasked with leading the group on and off the court—senior outside hitter Jess Braunstein, and junior captains Albany Alexander and Grace Tepper.
Braunstein said she has already noticed the change in the team dynamic with the addition of the freshmen.
“Super high energy practices, super high energy during games,” Braunstein said. “Nobody is really coming in with any preconceived ideas about some of the teams in our conference.”
Braunstein said that, with the addition of the nine freshmen(,) the upperclassmen have had to take on a larger leadership role on the team.
“From a volleyball perspective, it’s ushering them in and making sure the [freshmen] are learning how we work as a program,” Braunstein said. “Coming to college is a very new experience that can be kind of nerve-racking for people, so it’s also the personal sense, making sure that they’re comfortable at Emerson.”
Bond said that upperclassmen have already been very influential on the freshmen.
“The upperclassmen really are role models for everyone else, because they recognize that there are a lot of freshmen out there, so it could get bad,” Bond said. “But I think they do a really good job of keeping us all in check.”
The team played its first two games on August 30 and have a record of 5-2 over the past two weeks, including a win over University of Massachusetts Boston. The team also pushed Amherst College to four sets and Tufts University to five sets last week. Both Amherst and Tufts ranked at eighth and ninth respectively in the Division III NCAA Women’s Regional Volleyball Rankings at the end of last year.
Read said the non-conference games early this year are guiding the team toward its goals.
“We are very young competing against teams that are returning a lot of players, so it’s kind of exciting to see,” Read said. “After being competitive with those teams, we’ve learned a little bit more about ourselves. We’re hoping we can tweak some things and be ready to go for when we start up against Wellesley.”
The women’s volleyball team kicks off conference play with a home game on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. against Wellesley.
Albany Alexander is the deputy business manager of The Beacon.