At the season-opening Virginia Viking beach invitational, The Slippery Rock women’s volleyball team won all four games played and went 12-1 in overall sets.
Coaching a team that is a mixture of newcomers and veterans can be a challenge, but head coach Laurie Lokash gave all of the credit to her team.
“I am really impressed with how they handled things. There were times we were down 2-8 early in a set; normally I would be like ‘oh man,’ this time I was like ‘okay’. It’s a different vibe– the kids are all saying that, but I know it. We have something that can be really special here, as long as everybody holds true to what we’ve put together. They don’t panic, they are having fun on the court. These kids can be loose and go straight back in in a matter of seconds, that is important for our success.”
On Saturday, the Green and White defeated Elizabeth City State University in straight sets, followed by a 3-1 set win against Converse College.
Sunday, The Rock wrapped up the invitational with a pair of straight set wins- against the University of Mount Olive and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Lokash previously stated that the Rock would be up against “tougher competition than previous years” and had praise for every team that the Rock played over the weekend.
“We were fortunate, we went up the steps, we played worst team to best over the weekend,” Lokash explained, who then went into detail about each team.
“Elizabeth City is a team that is young and struggling, Converse has some kids that hit the ball, they can really rip it, they are ready to explode when they fix the other parts of their team.” Lokash said, who rounded out her observations with The Rock’s two Sunday opponents.
“Mount Olive has good parts of their game on defense and Alaska-Fairbanks is just a well-rounded team, they are like some of the team in our conference.”
Slippery Rock was led by a slew of different players in different categories, with half of the categories led by underclassmen, which Lokash pinned on the team’s new environment this year.
“Our kids always liked each other, it’s a good environment. Recruits come here because they like how the players are,” explained Lokash, who expanded to how that environment has benefited the team this year.
“Part of being a good team is being able to hold each other accountable, and that pure accountability is there this year. I’ve been talking about that for a couple years, they have just accepted that. They totally understand what it means. If you are really good friends with somebody, you have the ability to tell them that what they are doing is not in their best interest. Now they get it. I’ve had freshman say to me ‘this is the best team I’ve ever been a part of,’ It’s them realizing what needs to be done and doing it.”
Slippery Rock was lead in two statistical categories over the weekend by sophomores, one of which being Kaley Fucci. Fucci impressively led the team in Kills (31), while also adding 24 digs on the defensive side.
The other sophomore was Zoe Rivet, who had one of the more impressive weekends at the invitational, leading the team in assists (61), while also surprisingly giving the Rock the second-most service aces (4).
The Green and White was laden with many pleasant surprises, which head coach Laurie Lokash expanded upon.
“Lamia Alisic is not starting right now, but watching her play this weekend gave me a really good level of comfort that if either of our outsides are struggling, she can come in,” Lokash said, who was excited about the team’s depth.
“We got a couple seniors like Alisic and Hanna Lombardo who aren’t starting, but if we have to go to them it’s not the end of the world. Hanna came in and did a great job and Lamia came in and did a great job. It gives me a level of taking away stress.”
The other statistical leaders were a pair of seniors, Courtney Oberlander and Brooke Bostwick. Oberlander picked up right where she left off last year, with 61 digs after breaking the single-season SRU record in digs last year. Oberlander also added eight assists.
Bostwick led the team in service aces with 6 but also had the third-most kills with 24.
Slippery Rock’s depth was also on display over the weekend, having major contributions from all levels of experience.
Freshman defensive specialist Jalyn Willard gave the team 46 digs over the weekend. Another freshman, Erinn Kahoe, finished with the second-most kills on the team with 29.
Previously mentioned upperclassmen Lombardo added 21 assists for her team, and junior Kelsey Boyle recorded 23 kills.
Notables were rounded out by senior setter Haley Defibaugh, whose presence aided the Rock consistently on defense, with the second-most assists (59), and 26 digs.
All of the bench depth plays into Lokash’s philosophy for her 2017 squad.
“If somebody is hurt–it’s next man up. It’s like the penguins– we have next man up and we haven’t had that for a while. That’s the thing that will make us good, those ‘next men up’ are working hard to be that person, and they will have opportunities to do that throughout the season.
After a 4-0 start at one tournament, The Green and White will turn their attention to the PSAC/MEC crossover this weekend, where they will travel to West Virginia to play against West Virginia State and Urbana University on Friday, followed by Notre Dame College and the University of Charleston on Saturday.