Volleyball wraps up regular season with win
Matt Gad – Contributor
Following last weekend’s 3-0 win over winless Saint Michael’s, the Owls, at 18-13 overall and 10-4 in conference play, officially concluded another regular season playoff bound. They will be seeded fourth and take on 10-12 Southern New Hampshire Tuesday night in the NE10 Quarterfinals.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really had to motivate the team,” head coach Lisa Barbaro said. “They all want very badly to reach their goals of making it to the postseason. I think it was a matter of them just having to gel and come together as a group.”
The Owls, who won eight of their last nine games and have only had one home loss all season, have had some new players step up this year. After losing four seniors to graduation, the team has seen some impacts from the freshman class, including freshman Kailyn O’Neal.
Barbaro said she has relied on her senior class’ leadership to make sure the team stays on track. Last year they went 24-11, starting in the regular season and playing in two postseason tournaments. Through the regular season slate, they have two more losses than last fall.
“We were just constantly reminding everyone to keep trusting the process and be bold in our play,” senior Leanna Jadus said. “The biggest battle is making sure everyone is mentally prepared to perform. We have a strong roster of athletic ability but when times are tough we must stay mentally checked in.”
In 2017, the team went 2-1 in the NE10 Tournament, starting with a 3-1 win over American International in Springfield, Mass., since the Owls were the seventh seed. They then went on to defeat Saint Anselm in a game played at top-seeded New Haven. And on Nov. 18 of that year, they fell in a five-set thriller to the Chargers, 3-2, but were still able to qualify for their first ever NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.
“They needed to find a way to push forward,” Barbaro said. “We have a lot of new student-athletes that are very talented but still it takes a little while to work together as a team and that just peaked and hit at the right time. We’re just playing really good volleyball right now and I think our senior leadership really just took control.”
This year the team had new assistant coaches on the bench. Marshay Greenlee, a former Division I player, and Brianna Litevich joined, the ranks.
“Our seniors just took it on their back and said ‘hey, let’s keep this thing going for a few more weeks,’” Barbaro said. “[The seniors] just take a strong stance in leadership and what they bring to this team. They’ve taken the team on their backs and they’re leading and showing them the way. Everybody’s working hard and working together.”
Barbaro is using the motto “it’s not always how you start but how you finish” to keep her team rolling along, despite not being as consistent as the previous year’s campaign was.
“We’re trying to have a really, really strong finish,” she said.
If they can advance past Tuesday’s quarterfinal they would play again, at the highest remaining seed, Friday night. The NE10 Championship Game, should they make it for the second straight year, would be over the weekend.
“We’re using last year’s run as a reminder that we’re fully capable of being a great volleyball team,” Jadus said. “We embrace the challenges given and come together to battle for the win.”
Photo Credit: Jenna Stepleman, SCSU Athletic Communications