Women’s volleyball set to overcome challenges

By Matthew Pagels | gargoyle@flagler.edu

With the season under way, Brian Heffernan looks for success in his first year as head coach of the women’s volleyball team.

With five starters returning, younger players moving up the ranks and the acquisition of three freshmen, Heffernan faces the challenge of incorporating his style of play to those who are unaccustomed to his tactics.

“Many of the returning players have been great; as I would expect, about half of the returnees got on board from day one,” Heffernan said. “We still have a few that are slow to change and I have been as patient as possible to give them opportunities.”

Senior Casey Gnaan, 21, has played the past three seasons under previous head coach Taylor Mott. She knows a change of coaching is a change getting used to.

“The team is still working out the kinks,” Gnaan said. “We have a ton of talent and a great coaching staff. The team chemistry will come the more we play together.”

Gnaan says Heffernan is “very tactical,” focusing on proper technique and technical skills, which differs from their previous coach’s style.

“Successful or not, having a new coach affects any team,” she said. “We have been introduced to new strategies and new techniques to be successful.” She added that within time, the policies Heffernan enforces will add to Flagler’s improvement and success.

Gnann, being one of the veterans and leaders on the team, has high hopes for the season. She believes the team can surpass the accomplishments of last season.

Heffernan speaks highly of newcomer freshman Amelia Morgan, who stepped up into a vacated setter position. With previous setter and Division II All-American Olivia Snipes gone, Morgan aims to become a big contributor to the team with the help of her coach and teammates.

“Brian has helped me so much with being a smarter player and working on my technique,” Morgan said. “I hope he continues to have a positive impact on my game.”

Heffernan sees positive progress with Morgan and teamwork will only make her better.

“We need to realize the importance of moving beyond comfort zones to create an on-court environment to assist in the development of Amelia as our setter,” Heffernan said.

Heffernan has plenty coaching experience to bring on board to the team. After earning his first collegiate job at Penn State, Heffernan wound up winning the 1994 NCAA Championship.

“This was the start of a tremendous journey that allowed me to work with great coaches like Marv Dunphy at Pepperdine and Mike Hebert at Minnesota,” Heffernan said. “My time with these coaches was invaluable in terms of program building and creating a culture where athletes take ownership of their development. We have a long way to go, but I plan to create this type of program at Flagler in the years ahead.”

The coach may be different, but the goals for the team remain the same: to win the Peach Belt Conference as well as return to the Elite Eight.

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