Previewing the UMass women’s club volleyball team as it prepares for first tournament

Minutewomen kick off season at Fairfield on Nov. 6

Courtesy+of+UMass+club+volleyball+

Courtesy of UMass club volleyball

By Sydney Ciano, Collegian Correspondent

The UMass Women’s Club Volleyball team is excited to get back on the court, looking forward to seeing its cohesive unit take on its first tournament on Nov. 6 at Fairfield.

Three of UMass’ four officers are seniors, and each one is  expecting big things from the Minutewomen, watching each player come into practice ready to work, and most importantly, ready to win.

Heading into the season, the officers and team compiled their goals, leading their practices with these goals in mind.

Boston schools have always been a fair match for UMass and it is working hard to win against those rivals from across the state. In additon to beating their rivals, one of the biggest goals the Minutewomen have is doing well at nationals which are held this spring in Kansas City, Mo. Though they were proud of their performance at nationals last year, the girls are expecting even more out of their team this April.

The officers, themselves, are working on a balance between being players on the team while holding a position of power, making sure they listen to each team member’s perspectives.

In doing so, the Minutewomen have constructed different ways to approach both offense and defense, whether that be switching someone’s position or attempting different defense strategies to create the most effective game plan heading into November tournaments.

“We’re already at this level where all of the fundamentals are already here and we know how to play the game, knowing that we still can make tweaks and we still can improve every single time that we step on the court, and we need to practice like we play in games,” said secretary and senior middle blocker, Ella Adams.

The most effective part of implementing new practice plans and game strategies is the openness of the team. Even through trial and error, each team member pushes themselves and works hard. All four officers are expecting each player to come in ready to work, which they have shown each practice so far this season. They find themselves to be better prepared.

“A big chunk of our team are returners from last year, so I think we have a lot of depth and a lot of talent … I think we can really excel this year,” said president and senior setter, Brooke LeBlanc. LeBlanc is hopeful about her team this year and ready to finish her senior year with a win.

There are 12 returning girls on the team which officers see as a huge advantage. Not only do they understand the game and understand the level they are expected to play at, but the community of the volleyball team is even stronger. In return, their playing is better. Each member of the team pushes each other, making each other better and allowing practices to thrive off this healthy competition.

“These are our best friends we’re playing with,” said treasurer and senior right side, Maddie Dubé.

With a team of 15 volleyball players, the officers have worked on blending all their skills into a cohesive unit. In doing so, they shared it is extremely important to pick themselves back up during low moments of games.

“We can’t side out in crucial points, we can’t close out a game,” said vice president and sophomore defensive specialist libero, Sabrina Ishanyan.

However, this does not seem to be an issue with their team as all four officers are seeing changes in the team dynamic in comparison to previous years. Though they cannot fix the cracks in their game strategies until after their first tournament, the officers have worked hard to create a community especially with pulling in the three new freshmen.

The team has a good blend of both social and hardworking moments, knowing when it is time to play seriously while also having a supportive and comfortable team environment. Ishanyan noticed that the players understand when it is time to work and everyone seems to automatically be on the same page this season.

“Work ethic and mindset … people came in this year and they want to work, they want to win, they know what it takes to beat these teams,” Adams said of the starkest differences they have noticed from last season.

Adams emphasized UMass is only facing Division I schools this season.

“There are no more ‘gimme’ games,” added LeBlanc.

From left: Vice President Sabrina Ishanyan, Treasurer Maddie Dubé, Secretary Ella Adams, President Brooke LeBlanc

With an encouraging and supportive community among the 15 girls, the four officers are expecting that to transfer over to tournaments. They are looking forward to their strong offense, homing in on senior outside weapon, Natalija Beslic.

UMass is also looking to utilize smart gameplay both during tournaments and practices, a loud bench to bring the energy, and adaptability from their players during crucial situations.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum” LeBlanc said.

Ishanyan noted that there is a close-knit aspect to this team despite their differences in age, major, or outside friend groups. This club team brings them together, with the officers describing the Minutewomen’s bond as something entirely different and special.

Having this team be united under the same goals and work together both socially and in the game is important for the officers, especially the seniors.

“I don’t know what my college experience would’ve been like if I didn’t have these people and this sport to carry me through,” Adams said.

The officers agreed, recognizing that this sport is not only an outlet for everyone on the team, but that this is a community of friends and support there to fall back on when needed.

Between the love for the sport, the team’s bond, and the structure this club provides, UMass feels more united than ever before.

As the senior officers shared, this is a bittersweet season, having not played during their sophomore year due to COVID-19 precautions. However, the three along with the rest of the team’s seniors are ready to go out with a bang and make the most of, likely, their final moments with an organized volleyball team on the court.

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SydneyCiano.