Salukis return to action

By Cole Daily, Staff Reporter

After a short off season, the Salukis Football and Volleyball teams prepare to return to action after a confusing, COVID-riddled season last year.

The football team has a lot of pressure on its shoulders after going 6-4 and making it to the second round of the playoffs last season. Players  also have to battle a quick turnaround from last season to this year. May 3 was the last game of the previous season, they lost to SDSU in the FCS playoffs. The first game of the upcoming season is September 2 vs. SEMO. The Saluki football team has been rushed back after COVID pushed the season to the spring the previous year.

Quarterback Stone Labanowitz spoke on the Saluki football team’s preparation for the fall season.

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“With how we handled last year and what we got done in the midst of chaos proves that we’re built for this,” he said. “Why would it be hard for us now, if we already went through the hardest parts in the spring? We’re even older and better and stronger.”

During the shortened off-season, the team also has to adjust to new recruits and transfers coming into the program.

“We’re already a veteran-oriented group. I would say almost 50% of our team are seniors. With that being said, bringing in new kids is only gonna help us,” Labanowitz said.

He said all of the new players have made an impact.

“It’s cool that we’re a senior oriented group but yet we brought in over 30 new kids,” he said. ‘It’s a wake up call for the old kids when they come in because you go back to square one and remind you where you came from,”

Defensive back Qua Brown said  the fans and team have put very high expectations heading into the season. The team was in the Top 10 preseason ranking from the NCAA.

“ There is a high expectation that’s there now, “ Brown said. ”We know that comes with success so we’re making sure we put the necessary work to defend everything we set forth in the spring and carry it forward to the next season.“

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The players want to match those expectations, and Brown said there’s only one thing on their mind.

“Championship. That’s the biggest thing right now. We’re doing everything possible to obtain a championship,” he said. “If you shoot for the stars, you’ll land on the moon, so if we keep our mind on the championship and fall short, we’ll obviously still be pretty successful. But we’re set on a championship and putting in the work now.”

Volleyball players like Bailey Neuberger said the volleyball team had a rough season last year. It went 2-18 and 0-9 in conference matchups. The team wasn’t able to get any momentum through the season and COVID played a big role in that.

“There were definitely covid elements to it, but now we know how to face adversity together. We can only go up from here and we’re ready to be better,” Neuberger said.

The players feel the pressure from their doubters because of how their season went last year, and Tatum Tornatta said the women are ready to prove them all wrong.

“We’re just so eager to show everyone that we can bounce back and how we can perform, so getting back and getting with the new girls and getting with the returners is great. We’re all just ready to go and get some wins,” Tornatta said.

The volleyball team has also brought in some new recruits to help kick in the new year. Neuberger said they have been making a big impact on the court.

One is a transfer from Navarro in Texas. Nataly Garcia, the Outside hitter.

“She’s a stud and is so good,” Tornatta said.

Averi Vanderzille is a new middle from Carterville.

“She’s going to help us a lot. We don’t have many middles, so her coming in to help us there will be very nice,” Tornatta said.

Neuberger also said the recruiting class will help the team “just be better.”

“We also have a stud setter freshman that just came in…She’s going to make a big impact. Maggie Wallenberger is another freshman utility player, so she can play outside, middle, and right side.

The volleyball team has goals of its own heading into the new year. The main thing the team has been focusing on is consistency and reaching its potential. Both players agreed that they could’ve won more games last year, and part of that comes with being consistent on the court. Too many times last year they felt that they weren’t playing their best, and that was the reason games would slip away from them.

Both of these teams have very high aspirations for their upcoming seasons, and the Salukis will see if they can live up to their expectations for the season.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected]

Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter at @jojobernard2001

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