Volleyball up to the Challenge

Seniors Rachel Kennel (12) and Kayla Smeltzer (10) jump to block the ball.

Seniors Rachel Kennel (12) and Kayla Smeltzer (10) jump to block the ball.

Already in the thick of their season, the women’s volleyball team is off to a 6-7 start, including 2-2 in conference play.

Conference play is a major focus for the team. The team had not won a conference game since 2009. They picked up their first one this season against Randolph, followed by the second against Hollins before dropping a match to Roanoke on the road.

“Winning our first conference match since 2009 was the most incredible feeling. Honestly, it felt like we had just won a championship, because we never gave up fighting and took Randolph in the fifth game. It gave us all a feeling of excitement about what we have to look forward to this season and showed how our hard work is already starting to pay off. Each day we continue to build off that match, continuing to do the things we did right and also working to fix the errors,” Senior Rachel Kennel said.

“To be honest, I didn’t know that it had been that long since we’d won a conference game until after it happened. But I knew that last year we didn’t have any conference wins and we wanted that to change. So, we came out as the underdog and were able to exceed people’s expectations. We are a new team this year with lots of chemistry, heart, and a great work ethic. It was incredible to win that first game against Randolph. We were all ecstatic, and that laid the foundation for how we want the rest of the season to go, so we’ll keep working hard toward that goal,” Sophomore Katie Miller said.

Coach Jeff Tyson has instilled a new mindset into this year’s team as well that has helped them reach milestones that they had not in previous years.

“The theme that our coach implemented this year started the week of preseason and is written on the back of our practice shirts, ‘Keep the FAITH,’ which stands for Fortitude, Attitude, Integrity, Trust, and Honesty. These words remind us of the values we have to keep in order to play well as a team and continue to improve as the season goes on. The idea is if we stay focused around these words, then we’ll be able to overcome any adversity and work towards a better season than the last few,” Miller said.

The team has benefited by having Miller back as well. She finished fourth in the conference in digs per game as a first-year last season.

The women have played well at home in Yoder Arena with a 4-2 record and play their next home game Sept. 26 in a conference matchup with Emory and Henry.

“Students can expect to come out to our games and see a team who is going to fight for every point and enjoy every minute of it. We have added some new and talented players this year to the roster who can bring the heat,” Kennel said.

-Adam Posey, Staff Writer; photo credit, Sierra Comer

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