Only Time will tell

By Gus Bode

Having graduated only one senior, SIU volleyball continues to build toward future

SIU volleyball head coach Sonya Locke knows what it’s going to take in order for her young players to improve – time.

“It takes time to really understand and to be able to grasp it, and then execute what needs to be executed when it comes to playing in matches,” Locke said.

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Having many players with little experience at the Division I level, the Salukis have worked hard to click in a short amount of time. With that, the upperclassmen look to provide the leadership and know-how to guide the Salukis to a successful season.

Losing just one senior to graduation, outside hitter Kelly Harman, SIU looks to improve on its 2003 record of 7-23.

“I think this season we are really trying to focus on everyone working together as a team and not individuals,” said senior middle blocker Carrie Shephard.

The goals the team has set include going to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, being competitive in the three tournaments before conference play begins and becoming a better defensive team.

The Salukis are also working toward becoming a strong team right from the beginning of the match.

“Basically, we want to come out in our first game really strong and win in three and not lose in three or try to go to five games,” said junior middle blocker Marissa Washington.

In order to come out strong, SIU strength coach Eric Klein gave the team a training schedule to follow for the summer. Locke said the amount of time they invest in the workouts is entirely up to them.

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Since many players go home for the summer, the team trusts one another to follow through with the regimen.

“We all said that we are going to come back in shape so we could start out fresh and not have to work our way through and start winning at the end of the season,” Washington said.

The addition of 11 new players created a struggle for the team to come together and find each other’s place last season.

“We had so many people come in and it was their first time to really work together,” Washington said. “Now we know how everyone clicks and how everyone thinks.”

Locke still realizes that time is needed to gain experience and game opportunities for the younger players.

“You are only given so many opportunities in the fall and so many opportunities in the spring,” Locke said. “It’s experience – it’s being in the conference long enough to really understand what it’s like to win on the road and endure all the travel and playing back-to-back matches and what it really means to win two matches in a weekend, and what happens if you are in a tie situation.”

Spring tournaments gave the Salukis a good look as to how they would shape up this coming regular season, especially for the freshmen.

Though no scoring or championship games were played, it not only gave the players an extra chance to come together as a team, but also a chance to improve from the regular season and be in competitive situations.

During the spring tournaments, the Salukis made strides on passing, serve receiving and setting up offensive attacks.

“For the most part, I was happy with the progress we made, especially with the younger ones,” Locke said. “I’m glad that we do have competition opportunities in the spring because as coaches you want to see them in competitive situations if they didn’t get much playing time in the fall.”

Redshirt players were allowed to compete during the spring tournaments as a result of a new rule instituted by the NCAA, allowing Locke to assess the progress of Jaime Hinsenkamp and Katy DeWulf and predict how they would fit into the team’s future.

“They practiced and trained with the team during the regular season so they didn’t really miss out on anything except to get more experience during the fall season,” Locke said. “So by competing in the spring tournament we got to learn more about them as court players.”

Shephard saw the spring tournaments as a time to establish a solid basis for next season.

“We were still trying to get the whole team to flow,” Shephard said. “But I thought we were getting more of a click and working together as a team.”

As for leadership, Locke looks to the upperclassmen to provide the guidance, and she expects the underclassmen to grow into the team more to provide some direction.

“I think that we always look toward the upperclassmen to provide leadership,” Locke said. “They have experienced almost anything you could experience being in the program for so long. After that we are fairly young so we’re still looking around where the other part of the leadership is going to come from.”

Shephard looks to take that position head on next season. As the most experienced senior, Shephard plans to show what the team needs to do on the court to win matches.

“I want to be positive and encouraging because it’s frustrating sometimes, and you have to look to someone for positive encouragement,” Shephard said.

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