A newfound energy along with a positive, winning attitude will be seen this fall inside the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse.
For head women’s volleyball coach Hayley Kirby, the energy and momentum from the team’s first Presidents’ Athletic Conference win since 2015– a 3-1 win over Thiel on the last day of the season– returned to preseason training for 2019.
“The energy is amazing,” Kirby said. “We know we’re going to be better [than last season] and I think we’re excited about it and I think we have a good group of people who are working hard.”
The Jackets, however, are still young rostering just one senior, a handful of juniors and a host of underclassmen. Senior defensive specialist and setter, Alyssa Proper, enters the season as a captain. Despite a young roster, Kirby is pleased with the leadership qualities of her players.
“Our leadership is amazing and it’s two people who kind of came out of nowhere,” Kirby said. “Alyssa Proper is one of our captains and her transformation from last year to this year as a person and a leader has been insane. She’s a totally different person and has done a great job.”
Junior outside hitter Hannah Colvin has also emerged as a captain and will remain a threat on offense after averaging 2.06 kills per set a year ago.
“[Colvin] is also a captain and she’s a little more talkative than Alyssa, so I knew she’d step into that role, but she’s doing even better than I expected.” Kirby said.
Last year, the Jackets improved their win total from one to five in what was a year of change for Jacket volleyball. This year, Kirby is looking to build further on that success.
“We had a lot of potential to win more [last season], but ending on a big conference win the last game of the season has really pushed us in a good direction,” Kirby said. “The returners were excited about that and are building off of it to go into this year.”
Kirby said for now, the goal will be to continue to grow and work to find lineup combinations which work the best for the team. “Getting our flow together [is important],” she said. “We need to get our lineup to work well together, mesh and communicate.”
Looking deeper into the season, however, Kirby sees no reason the Jackets can’t win at least 10 more games than they did in 2018.
“Long-term our goal for the season is to win 15 games,” Kirby said. “That’s 10 more than last year but it’s definitely doable. The first weekend we play three teams [Allegheny, La Roche and Pitt Greensburg] that we beat last year.”
One way that she believes the team can grow is communication, in a raucous way.
“I think we’ll be able to get into a lot of people’s heads by yelling, screaming and being obnoxious.” she said.
Kirby is pleased to see many of the women step up with the team being younger than in years past.
“We have a young team, we have only one senior, so I think everyone is stepping into those leadership roles,” Kirby said.
The Jackets open the season this weekend at the St. Vincent Bearcat Invitational in Latrobe. They will host La Roche in their first home match of the season Sept. 11 at the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse.