By Tasha Cook
Upon completing last year’s NJCAA volleyball title game, the Lady Cavs exited second best in the nation. This year, the team began its season ranked first in the nation in the NJCAA Division II Volleyball Preseason Poll and as of Oct. 8 is undefeated in its conference.
The Lady Cavs are 18-10 overall for the season, with a conference record of 6-0.
Four sophomores returned to the team this year. Referred to as the “Fab Four” by coach Jennifer Ei, they consist of Emily Hester, Cassie O’Brien, Brianna Winn and Crystal Simon. Seven freshmen make up the remainder of the team.
Coach Ei said the freshmen have received a great amount of help from the veterans.
“The sophomores have been great leaders,” Ei said. “[They] really have helped them out to know what the program’s about, what’s expected of them. Also with all the incoming freshmen, five out of the seven have played club together for several years, so their chemistry is really good. Instead of fighting that, everyone has just joined in.”
Ei said the team came into the season ranked first out of respect for what they accomplished last year.
“I think it was more how we placed in the past, which is very nice to be respected like that as a team in a program,” she said.
Instead of being discouraged by finishing second at last year’s national title, the Lady Cavs are using this to their advantage mentally.
“Last year we got second, we were so close to winning it and then falling short, so this year we’re definitely a lot more determined to make that last step to get first,” said outside hitter Brianna Winn.
Despite this determination, the team is not entirely focused on the end result.
“Before we focus on nationals, we all decided that we need to focus on each game and not look past any team,” said Crystal Simon, also an outside hitter.
The Fab Four have worked together so long it gives them the advantage of knowing how and when to push each other, said middle and right side hitter Cassie O’Brien and middle hitter Emily Hester.
O’Brien also said this helps them know when to take turns as leader.
“We know when it’s someone’s turn to take the lead and be the big leader, and when it’s time to step back and let someone else do the job because you know they’ll do a better job,” she said.
Contact Tasha Cook, managing editor, at email@example.com.