Last year’s 13-19 season of stagnation has led accomplished head volleyball coach Laurie Lokash to take a different approach with her team than she has in the past.
“We don’t have a hierarchy, we make it so everybody on the team is comfortable saying what they want to say.” Lokash said. The PSAC’s all-time winningest coach has seen it all over her 33-year career at The Rock, and knows how relationships have to develop for a team to be successful.
“We’re getting to the point where we are willing to hold each other accountable. Sometimes that’s difficult with girls, because they worry about who likes them and who doesn’t. In order to be truly successful, you have to be able to say ‘I need you to do this, you can do this.’ Lokash said. She also talked about personalities meshing can create success this year.
“There is a way to say things and get your point across and still make that person feel okay. Our new grad assistant (Kristin Collins) came in and said ‘You’re too nice to each other’. In a program that has been historically successful, it is hard to be successful without player-to-player accountability because, they matter to each other. If a coach tells you something, sometimes they are like eh, but if it’s your friend telling you that, it means something.
Every team requires senior leadership and one of those seniors, Courtney Oberlander, had a fantastic 2016. She broke the Slippery Rock single-season digs record (648), was named third team all-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), and was awarded a PSAC scholar athlete award. It can be tough to follow up such a productive season, but Lokash was optimistic that Oberlander could do that.
“The big thing with Court is that she is a really good DS and she has worked very hard to make her serve stronger and she has worked on her passing game. In the past spring, she raised her passing level from a 2.0 to a 2.35 on a scale of 1-3, which is like raising your batting average 30 points. It’s a pretty good hike in what she did. She spent a lot of time working on the process, instead of looking at the result, which is what you need to in order to take steps forward. I look for her to even be a stronger player this year, and become more vocal with her teammates. She was the person who would always do a lot out there but never say anything. Now she’s assuming some of the leadership qualities you want to see in a senior.”
The Rock has five other seniors on the roster this year, which provides plenty of opportunities for leadership. Lokash talked about how those seniors could step up throughout the year.
“Brooke Bostwick has always been a popular player with her teammates because she has a really easygoing personality that allows her to see both sides of the situation. She always steps back before making any decisions.” Lokash said, who then named a few other players that can provide a backbone for the team this season. “Haley Defibaugh has been kind of putting the hammer down, saying ‘this is acceptable, this is unacceptable.”
Seniors are not the only players who excelled, with sophomore Zoe Rivet returning after leading the 2016 squad in both aces and assists, and Lokash emphasized how Rivet could also develop as a leader, even as an underclassman.
“I think Zoe Rivet has been fairly talkative when we talk about practice and how things are going.”
The Rock will open their season at the Viking Virginia Beach Invitational, which will occur September 2nd and 3rd. The Green and White have historically excelled in neutral site games, going a combined 40-26 the previous six years in such games, and Lokash expects her team to expand that success throughout the season this year.
“I think right now we have a different culture on our team this year, we’ve got some new players coming in, and that has the potential to make a difference over the course of the season. The group we have is a bit more focused, and, to quote one of my players, ‘there is a better vibe within the team’. We’re playing some higher caliber teams in the tournaments compared to other years. By the second tournament, we’re going to have a pretty good idea about the team for the year.” Lokash Said.
“We have the horses, we just have to get it to work together”
SRU will play in two more tournaments before beginning conference play on September 22, and will have their first home game vs Millersville on September 29, at Morrow Field House.