The 2013 season couldn’t be any more different for Geneseo’s volleyball team. The Knights are exclusively freshmen – well, from a volleyball perspective. Although the roster lists one junior, eight sophomores and six freshmen, none of the returning members played more than four games during their Geneseo careers. This makes this team by far the youngest that head coach Jen Salmon has ever coached.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this, to be honest,” Salmon said.
And Salmon means that in every aspect of volleyball: the team’s inexperience but also its energetic attitude and unity.
“We, as a whole, are more cohesive on day 12 or day 13, wherever we are, than I have ever been at three months with the program,” she said. “This group of girls … they are committed. They’re very respectful and they’re great people and they genuinely are invested in the direction we’re moving.”
That direction has drastically shifted since the 2012 season that ended abruptly after just four games.
Eleven upperclassmen – eight players on last year’s roster, in addition to three former players who participated in the 2011 season – were arrested for class-A misdemeanors of hazing in the first degree and unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree.
The Geneseo Police Department’s investigation revealed that hazing reportedly took place at a volleyball gathering. This incident was related to the transport of an 18-year-old student on Sept. 2, 2012 to Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville for alcohol poisoning.
All but one defendant didn’t make the 2013 roster; this was a “unified decision” that Salmon made with the athletics department, but as head coach, it was ultimately her decision to select the team, she said.
“It was a very challenging decision because good people can make really bad decisions, but it was a decision that needed to be made because that’s in our past,” Salmon said. “We don’t want to have any of that energy and people that are able to make those decisions in the program.”
While the Knights are taking on the responsibility to change the perception of Geneseo volleyball, they’re also making a name for themselves on the court.
“[It’s] confidently the most talented team, the most skilled team that I’ve had at Geneseo,” Salmon said, who is celebrating her fifth season.
But it was sophomore Samantha Holdredge who shined at the New York University Labor Day Invitational. The Rochester native earned All-Tournament honors, tallying 40 digs and 13 kills over the three games.
The team went 1-2 in its opening weekend, but numbers only say so much.
The Knights defeated Montclair State University (N.J.) in their first regular-season game on Friday Aug. 30. Montclair has appeared in the last seven consecutive New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs with its most recent conference title in 2007. Geneseo persevered after dropping the first two sets, taking the game in five sets, 22-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-12.
Against even better competition – Spalding University on Friday Aug. 30 and NYU on Saturday Aug. 31 – the Knights fell in three straight sets in both instances. But Salmon wasn’t worried about that, saying, “Even if I didn’t have a team of freshmen, it could’ve been the same outcome.”
Geneseo heads to Rochester for the Nazareth Tournament on Friday Sept. 6 and Saturday Sept. 7, before hosting Keuka College on Sept. 18.
Geneseo defeated Hilbert College on Wednesday Sept. 4. The Knights needed all five sets to gain the victory. Sophomore Erika Dannenfelser led Geneseo with nine kills, three aces and one block.