Key to volleyball season lies in how the Saints move the ball
By Devon Jeffreys | firstname.lastname@example.org
Midway through what may be their toughest season yet, the Flagler women’s volleyball team has identified their weakness. What they do to rise above it will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of their season.
“It seems like our passing is determining how well we play or not,” head Coach Taylor Mott said. “When we pass well, we seem to be winning. When we’re not passing well, we seem to be losing. We’ve really tried to focus on passing in practice.”
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The Saints currently hold a 12-7 record, but a look at their overall record doesn’t tell the whole story.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Mott said. “I’ve seen us play unbelievable, better than any team I’ve ever had and I’ve seen us play terrible.”
According to Mott, having trouble with passing is not uncommon and is something her teams have been able to overcome in the past.
“Passing is just mental,” she said. “Once it gets in your head, it’s all you’re thinking about. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do in volleyball. It takes a lot of reps and gaining that confidence back.”
“I think if we could be more consistent with our passing and get it back up to the level that it was when we started the season, I think we’ll see some of those close matches go back in our favor.”
To begin the season, it seems like the good and the bad have come and gone in streaks. After losing their first three matches, the Saints went on a six-match winning streak, including four wins in two days at the Viva Health UM Volleyball Classic in Montevallo, Ala.
“It’s like two totally different teams,” Mott said.
They proceeded to lose their next two matches, each in three games, to Florida Tech and Nova Southeastern of the Sunshine State Conference.
In each of their losses, the Saints have pointed to passing as the main reason they have struggled.
“When our passing is on, the whole team is on,” senior middle blocker Krista McAra said. “It starts with a pass. Over the past couple of weekends we couldn’t pass and it’s been really affecting our play overall.”
According to Mott, McAra’s play has been a big boost for the team this season.
“I’d have to say, out of everyone, she’s been the most pleasant surprise at how well she’s playing,” Mott said. “She’s blocking well and she’s hitting well. She’s been very consistent. She works so hard and it makes everyone else around here want to work hard.”
McAra is in her fourth year with the Saints, but has stepped up in her final season. Her 108 kills are third on the team and the most of any middle blocker. She also leads the team with 68 total blocks.
Also impressing Mott has been freshman outside hitter Meg Weathersby.
“She’s an athlete,” Mott said. “You can tell by watching her, she’s very athletic. We didn’t know that she would be able to come in and make an impact right away and make the impact that she’s made. Her potential is just through the roof.”
Weathersby leads the team in kills with 194 and has also served up a team-leading 23 aces. She has established herself as a force on the outside early in her freshman year.
“It’s taken some time to gel as a team and really get to know the new players,” Weathersby said. “We’re still trying to figure out what positions people need to play. It’s really starting to come together though and we’re really clicking.”
Sophomore Justine Burkhardt has shown that the sophomore slump is just a myth. Not surprisingly, her 3.20 kills per game leads the team for the second straight year. But what stands out most about Burkhardt has been her defense. Her 192 digs lead the team, as well.
“She works so hard when she’s out on the floor, that’s the reason she’s getting the digs that she’s getting,” Mott said. “She never gives up. She’s going to chase down any ball that gets anywhere near her. That’s an improvement for her.”
Since the loss to Nova Southeastern, the Saints have won six of eight matches, but the two losses were in three games each to Florida Southern and Lynn University, also members of the Sunshine State Conference in NCAA Div. II, a conference the Saints hope to be a part of next year.
The Saints are currently 1-4 against SSC teams, their only win coming over Barry University.
“I think right now if you compared us in, we’d fall right into the middle of the pack in the Sunshine State Conference,” Mott said. “When they were here they said that they didn’t want a doormat school, they want a role player. I think we’ve shown them that we’re not going to come in and be the doormat of the conference. We’re going to contribute.”