The Shippensburg University volleyball team is coming into the 2016 season with some fresh new faces and high expectations. After winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship last season, the Lady Raiders are more than ready to jump back onto the court and defend their title.
Although the PSAC playoffs do not take place until November, the anticipated championship match sits in the back of the players’ and coaches’ minds as they prepare for, hopefully, another successful season.
SU’s head volleyball coach, Leanne Piscotty, is not as concerned about the championship as she is about the hard work the team must put in to reach that goal at the end of the season.
“I think our goal is to always win a conference championship. I don’t expect it because it’s not an easy thing to do. What I expect is that we focus on getting better every single day and we control the things that we can control,” Piscotty said.
For Piscotty, short-term goals are just as important as the long-term goal of earning another conference title. Piscotty believes focusing on one match at a time will bring the team its desired success.
“I expect to go into every match with the intention to win the match because we can beat any team in the conference. The hard part is making that happen every time we hit the floor.”
Piscotty mentioned other factors that go into being successful on the court, such as physical health and emotional strength.
“In any season, it’s crucial to stay healthy,” Piscotty said. “The standing goal for our entire season is to make sure we’re getting better every day and to be in control of our emotions. We want to be that resilient team where we’re not showing frustration and we’re able to let go of errors and maintain focus for the very next play.”
After a victorious 2015 season, one would think there would be more pressure on both the coaches and the players to live up to expectations of being just as good or even better than last year, but Piscotty points out that the pressure to perform is always on athletes.
“I think there’s immense pressure every time we take the floor…we have mountains to climb in our journey to get to the end of the season,” Piscotty said.
Piscotty is hoping to fill the roles of graduated seniors Laura Plank (defensive specialist), Faith Athey and Taylor Gotshall (blockers) who all played crucial roles in the team’s success on the court last season.
“Certainly we’re going to miss stellar performances from all three of them. We’re really going to miss their [Athey and Gotshall] abilities with blocking, and Plank’s innate ability to read behind that blocking duo,” Piscotty said.
Although three seniors were lost, the team actually grew in size with the addition of eight new freshmen, bringing the team roster up to 20 players.
“We have eight newcomers, they are all freshmen and they are all very competitive,” Piscotty said of the new arrivals.
Piscotty named freshmen Kendall Johnson, Gabby Johnson and Samantha Webber as being especially competitive for the two open middle positions, as well as freshmen Megan Forstburg, Grace Ramacciotti and Faith Loehle who are looking to fill a spot in the back row for defense.
With a big group of freshmen joining the team, the returning players must learn how to play with their new teammates and the freshmen must learn the speed of the game at a collegiate level. Junior right side hitter Courtney Malott is assured that with the current SU volleyball culture, positive attitudes and good work ethic will be cultivated in the newcomers.
“At Shippensburg, it starts with our coaching staff. They set the tone and demand a high level of play from us and an even higher level of team atmosphere because they know we’re capable of it,” Malott said. “That expectation is followed and applied by the upperclassman to encourage and help guide the underclassmen until it becomes their responsibility when they progress to upperclassmen.”
Malott is looking to assist the new players any way she can to ensure the team’s success as a whole.
“For new teammates to our program, it is important for them to understand our offensive and defensive game. It may be completely different from what they were used to playing before they came to Shippensburg,” Malott said. “Personally, my goal is to help them in whatever aspect they’re struggling with and talk it out with the hopes that they’ll understand and be able to apply the new information.”
Senior setter Maura Nolan also recognizes the importance of leadership and guiding the younger players towards success.
“I am big on leading by example. Words can sometimes be overused and empty. If you are only telling people to work harder or hold each other accountable, nothing will get done,” Nolan said. “Having a leading role, it is important to constantly be working hard so the younger players can follow suit.”
This will be Nolan’s fourth and final year leading SU’s offense. Although she is sad her volleyball career is coming to an end, she is still excited at the prospect of yet another season.
“I’m looking forward to our home games, as well as making my last season one to remember,” Nolan said.
SU is ranked second behind the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in the preseason rankings for the PSAC. The Lady Raiders will kick off their season on Friday, Sept. 2, by hosting the Raider Classic Tournament.