Thriving despite adversity

WolfPack+Women%27s+Volleyball+Team+2011

Phil Ejercito

From left to right: Chrissy Marti, Kate Jonas, Hannah Schwartzer, Kensey Loger, Kirsten Halma, Ashley Ponyicsanyi, Madison Milsap, Calli Dahl, Trichelle Hoppman, and Kaitlyn Nyman pose for a team portrait in Redsten Gymnasium on Sept. 21. The WolfPack Women’s volleyball team has stayed competitive despite recently losing several projected starters.

Jason Cuevas, Clarion Staff Writer

Every sports team knows that the possibility of losing a player or two lurks on the horizon. What they do not expect are player losses showing up in bunches. Sometimes it takes the unexpected to show just how much adversity a team can handle.

The WolfPack volleyball team now sits in the middle of their biggest loss of players in recent memory. After a strong recruiting offseason, if you now look around, you will find many of those players are no longer here. Since June 15, the team has lost seven players.

“They were projected starters, a couple returning kids, kids that have signed national letters of intent. Kids that we had heavily, actively recruited,” said Toby Parker, the WolfPack coach.

However, as of Sept. 23 the team was ranked nationally for Division III NJCAA schools.

Parker would not reveal the names of the players who left or their reasons for doing so. He expressed that it would be against NJCAA regulations to release any of that information.

“These things happen,” Parker said. “This program has never witnessed anything like it, but welcome to it.”

Welcoming it is exactly what they have done. Before losing to Rock Valley College on Sept. 20, the WolfPack had reeled off nine straight victories. Their solid 14-4 record to begin the season through the first 18 games does not show any signs that the player losses will sink this team.

“The situation itself is not dire. We are not in a tailspin,” Parker said. “The adversity is what it is and again we have no control over it, but I think each time it’s happened I’m here to say we’ve gotten stronger. It’s not affecting our season.”

One of the things that the team has had to overcome is the constant flow of adjusting on the fly. Moving from position to position has often been the norm for this year’s squad.

“I think it’s difficult for all of us because no one was expecting to play where they are really playing this year,” said Ashley Ponyicsanyi, defensive specialist.

While the adjustment to a new position certainly contains difficult moments, there are some players that are enjoying their newfound roles. Kate Johnson, middle blocker, is one of those players who had to migrate from position to position. She actually started out as a right side hitter.

“I feel like it’s a challenge for me and it helps our team out. So I like doing it,” Johnson said.

Not only are many players in roles they did not originally foresee, but many are also finding themselves getting to play a much bigger part. Team members that expected to be down on the depth chart now find themselves in crucial roles.

If those players had not left the roster, then many of the athletes on the current roster might never have had a chance to be starters. Without the extra openings, some may never even have been on the team.

“That opportunity has been embraced by all of them,” Parker said.

“Everybody is just getting an opportunity to play that didn’t before. Nobody wants to sit on the bench,” said Calli Dahl, Wolfpack libero.

The players expressed that they feel other teams sometimes think they will be an easier matchup. Their opponents may think that they have lost all their good players and will not be as tough of a matchup as previously expected.

“They kind of see us walk in the gym and our average height is like 5’7” and they’re like ‘wow’,” Dahl said.

The WolfPack has stuck together through all of rapid roster turnover. They aren’t going to let other expectations influence their own.

“We still set high goals. We still want to be the best that we can be,” said Hannah Schwartzer, outside hitter. “I don’t think it’s ever good to set low goals just because something happens.”