Freshman force leads volleyball to success

By Laura Hancq
October 26, 2010

The Cabrini College women’s volleyball team enters the Colonial States Athletic Conference playoffs with an overall record of 21-7. They finished with a record of 10-1 in CSAC play and are entering the playoffs ranking as the No. 1 seed. Senior Steph Recklau, CSAC Player of the Year, lead the team into the playoffs. -- Lauren Sliva/Online Media Editor

The seven freshmen on the Cabrini volleyball team have set their goals high for their first season. After playing crucial roles in the success of the regular season, they are focused on the playoffs and making it to the NCAA tournament.

Alaina Clark, Carly Cagle, Michele Fitz, Michelle McCrossin, Stephanie Pierce, Sophia Sokolovich and Kristy Riley are the seven freshmen who also compose most of the 2010 Lady Cavs team. They have dominated the CSAC in the regular season and all feel very fortunate to have the chance to advance so far in their first year.

“Because this is our first year, we’re not really sure what to expect in the playoffs or even understand why the NCAA tournament is so exciting,” Sokolovich, outside hitter, said.  “All we know is we definitely want to get there and find out for ourselves.”

The Lady Cavs have a great chance for playoff success this year. The team leads the CSAC with a 10-1 conference record and an overall record of 20-6.

Before the CSAC loss to Neumann College on Wednesday, Oct. 27, Sokolovich had said, “There is a lot of pressure on us because the team hasn’t lost a CSAC game in two years. We don’t want to disappoint.”

The playoffs are set to begin on Thursday, Nov. 4, and although the freshman may feel there is a lot of pressure on them, head coach Eric Schaefer could not be more proud of their efforts.

“It is a great testament to the freshmen that the team is in the position to win the conference title,” Schaefer said. “Hopefully their youth won’t affect them in the postseason but we’ve already seen them mature and felt the immediate impact they have had on this team.”

Because so many of the starters are freshmen, the rest of the team has counted on them to really be a presence on the court. The season has required a lot of hard work to get the right chemistry between the new freshman starters and the seasoned veterans.

“Whenever you come into a new team it can be hard to mesh,” Sokolovich said. “It has showed throughout the season but the chemistry is definitely getting better.”

Megan Ryan, 18, and Stephanie Recklau, 10, jump to block Neuman's hit --Lauren Sliva/Online Media Editor

Any athlete will attest to the fact that it can be very challenging to adjust to a new team and a new style of play. Schaefer and the freshman players stressed how difficult it can be when there are so many new faces on the court. Teamwork is crucial in volleyball and the Lady Cavs, as well as the coaching staff, are proud of their efforts to become one.

“Some of the girls already knew each other and some didn’t,” Schaefer said. “They didn’t come together at first and it has been a process to break down cliques and play together. The team worked really hard to become a solid unit and it has paid off nicely.”

Many of the freshmen were familiar with each other prior to coming to Cabrini and some had even already been teammates.

“A lot of us played beach volleyball together this summer,” Clark, setter, said. “It was great to come onto the Cabrini team having that advantage.”

The freshmen agree that the previous relationships were big factors in the adjustment to Cabrini volleyball and in forming the freshman force that is present on the court.

Adjusting to college can be hard enough without the added stress of playing such important roles on a team with very high expectations. Each freshman had to discover the meaning of time management in order to balance school work, volleyball and a social life.

“I feel like I’m always so busy,” McCrossin, defensive specialist and outside hitter, said. “If I have a day off from volleyball, I have to devote the day to doing work. Volleyball has been such a big commitment and we all had to figure out how to manage our time and make sure we can give 100 percent to the team.”

Michele Fitz blocks a hit from Neuman College -Lauren Sliva/Online Media Editor

All of the freshman players agreed that learning effective time management was difficult at first. The skill can be difficult for any student to acquire, let alone an athlete. The fact that the freshman Lady Cavs stressed the importance of learning time management provides a positive outlook for their futures on and off the court.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from all of this is that you just have to find a routine that works best for you,” Riley, defensive specialist,  said.

It seems like the Lady Cavs have developed a great regular season routine and can hopefully keep it going into the playoffs. The team looks to the freshman force to be a giant factor in the playoffs and for years to come.

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Laura Hancq

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