For any college sports program, recruiting a talented freshman class year after year lays the foundation for a successful team overall.
Look to college football, as the Alabama Crimson Tide have essentially built a dynasty over the past decade under the stewardship of Nick Saban. Yes, Saban is a great coach, but he is also a great recruiter, as he has reeled in a top five recruiting class among any program for as long as anyone can remember. This is ultimately what has turned Alabama into one of the most successful and respected programs in the nation.
Coming off a shaky 11-19 record last season, Coach Laurie Lokash is using the same philosophy, as she is determined to bring in young, competitive talent each year and return SRU to a perennial contender. Lauren Weber, Rachel Dingfelder, Lauryn Rocassin, Gabby Huck, Cacey Cook, Lauren Crytzer, Tiara Teague, and Lauren Chadwick are all part of a big freshman class that makes up nearly half of the 20-woman roster.
In Coach Lokash’s eyes, this may be one of the most talented recruiting classes she has brought in recent memory. When asked what word best emulates the freshman class, Lokash did not hesitate with her response.
“Potential, they reek of potential. They are challenging others on the team and making everyone elevate their play,” Lokash said. “One question I always get is ‘Do you play freshmen?’, and I always say yes I do, if those freshmen are performing, they will get playing time.”
In a sport where only six people can be on the court at any time, it can be hard especially as a freshman to get playing time. Although as Coach Lokash eluded to, a few freshmen have been able to receive playing time. Those players include Lauren Weber, Lauryn Rocassin, and Gabby Huck and they have impressed so far this season.
“They are good volleyball players, every year it seems like our freshmen are a little ahead of the game compared to where the previous class was the year before,” Lokash said. “They have good skills and fundamentals, they have what it takes to compete with people right away.”
This has been very evident, especially when looking at the performance of the rising star that is Gabby Huck. Through five games, Huck has led Slippery Rock’s volleyball team in points as well as kills and top three in blocks. The freshman phenom has made a large impact this season and has been a key cog in Slippery Rock’s three wins this season.
“Gabby is a physical kid and has the potential to be a very good volleyball player at this point,” said Lokash. “She has excelled in hitting on the outside and is a great blocker.”
To step into college level competition as a freshman is not an easy task, but to perform at a high level is certainly rare. These types of player are extremely valuable to any team and one can figure that each of these freshmen will have their time to shine and perform. Aside from a raw talent perspective, this freshmen class has great chemistry and gel very well together, another component in what it takes to have a great, competitive team.
“These girls get along really well and sometimes I think they might be too close,” Lokash jokes. “They go to study hall together, they take classes together, and honestly it is not just the freshman either, it has just been a different atmosphere than the last couple years and that is a positive sign. The future is so bright, these freshmen are already pretty good. Once they learn the new scheme and settle down on the team, we will see awesome results,” Lokash said.
Between the talent the freshman class brings, to the strong chemistry that has formed even after only being teammates for a few months, to the freshmen already making an impact on the court, one thing is already clear. The sky is the limit for the Slippery Rock University volleyball team.