MEQUON, Wis. – Concordia University Wisconsin's volleyball team is young, to say the least. With just seven upperclassmen listed on the training camp roster of 29 student-athletes, there is a lot of excitement and encouragement surrounding a program on the rise.
It was just two seasons ago, the Falcons returned a surplus of experience and finished with a program-record 23 victories. Led by American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American Honorable Mention performer Stephanie Boehm, five student-athletes earned Northern Athletics Conference post-season honors that year.
Losing that much talent was difficult to replace and the result was a 1-13 start for CUW last year. However, like any young group of freshmen it took time to learn the system and progress at a higher level. Things began to click for the Falcons as they won their last three matches to end the 2011 season, and three of the last five in NAC play.
The future was looking bright during post-season meetings and it should have been.
Student-athletes such as Hannah Griffiths (Antigo, Wis.) and Gabrielle VanBeaver (Green Bay, Wis.) are no longer freshmen, and senior leaders Amanda Stahmann (Van Dyne, Wis.), Christi Rever (Decatur, Ill.) and Abbey Schmidt (Rifle, Colo.) will make the transition for the newcomers easier than they think.
"I had a hard transition my freshman year, just because you are used to being the best in high school," Stahmann said. "It was hard coming to college and seeing that there are people better than you. We as seniors need to help their transition to a new team, coaching staff and new schemes easy. The biggest thing is to lead by example. People can talk about it, but showing the freshmen how things are done, like hustling through every drill and using correct technique will help them tremendously."
It was not uncommon during the third practice of training camp on Monday afternoon to see a returnee instructing and directing the newcomers in the right direction. A grinding two-plus hour practice consisting of conditioning, hitting and diving for balls can break down anyone mentally, especially when a student-athlete is not used to it.
"The key aspect for this team to get better is going to be focus," Griffiths said. "Sometimes we like to have fun, and that is OK, but focusing is going to lead this program in the right direction."
CUW did not finish with the overall record they wanted last season, but this is a new year with a new roster. More importantly, if the Falcons continue to practice with the effort they had on Monday the wins will come faster than they think.