Volleyball adjusts to coaching staff changes

After an eventful offseason that included the hiring of a new coach and the addition of nine freshmen, the Geneseo volleyball team is in full swing for its 2017 season.

The Knights finished in fifth place during the 2016 season in the SUNYACs with a record of 5-4 in conference. They were, however, able to advance to the semifinals of the SUNYAC playoffs, where the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles eventually defeated the team—who went on to win the SUNYAC Championship. 

Although the 2016 team’s drive to the post-season was cut short, they have continued that momentum into this season, posing a 7-4 record against some impressive teams. 

Perhaps the biggest shake up this offseason occurred before this young team returned to Geneseo for training. Amber Dunn, the head coach of Geneseo’s volleyball team for the past two seasons, announced that she had accepted a new position at a different school. 

Dunn, who in 2016 led the Knights to their first SUNYAC playoff appearance since 2011, returned to her home state of Wisconsin, where she will take the reins of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Eagles women’s volleyball team. Although Dunn was not the sole reason for the Knights’ success in 2016, her departure did cause for some nail biting. 

A head coach influences the team’s atmosphere. Over time, players become accustomed to that coach’s style, which leads to strong team communication.

In addition, a head coach plays a vital role in recruiting talented individuals to play under their leadership. Players that commit to a certain coach and program feel a sense of allure, as the recruitment process can sometimes be lengthy and competitive. Despite this change, Geneseo successfully recruited nine players.

“We were nervous because we were moving in a good direction [in 2016],” sophomore middle blocker Kat Vernon said. “Recruits were especially nervous, too. Everyone was on edge … we felt like we had to try out again.”

Fortunately for the Knights, the new head coach is a familiar face. Former assistant coach Hunter Drews was promoted to head coach following Dunn’s departure. As for most sports teams, it takes a little time for the team to become acquainted with new teammates. 

“[I was] nervous about the culture moving forward, but now we feel like we are going to do well,” Vernon said. 

Even with the coaching change and the addition of nine new players, the Knights appear to have picked up right where they left off in 2016. Having currently played only non-conference games so far, it is difficult to predict how the Knights’ season will go—but it is important to mention that they are on a solid winning streak. 

Despite these changes, Geneseo is home to some quality players, including the current SUNYAC Player of the Week, sophomore outside hitter Grace Cergol. Cergol is now the back-to-back SUNYAC Player of the Week due to the fantastic numbers she has been able to put up. 

“We’re receiving constructive feedback and learning a lot more,” Cergol said. “I think this year is going to be a great year. We’ve played some really good teams this year and have beat them.” 

The Knights head to Plattsburgh, N.Y., where they will face the SUNY New Paltz Hawks on Friday Sept. 22, as well as the SUNY Plattsburgh Cardinals and the SUNY Potsdam Bears on Saturday Sept. 23.