Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier sports editor
After being crowned Southern Athletic Association (SAA) conference champions for the third year in a row, the Berry volleyball team finished up their season with a loss to Colorado College in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III (DIII) semifinals on Saturday at Emory University.
This season saw many personal awards for the program as well. Senior middle blocker Carson VanCampen won first-team All-American recognition from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). In addition to this, sophomore libero Laura Beier won third-team All-American recognition and senior outside hitter Emily Hancock received honorable mention for her achievements this season.
The volleyball team ended the season with a 27-6 overall record and a 12-2 SAA conference record.
Senior setter Jordan Leitch said that, throughout this season, there was a lot of growth for everyone on the team.
“We are a really young team and I think that our underclassmen really came in and challenged the upperclassmen in physical ways and emotional ways, leadership ways and they really brought a lot of strengths to the table,” Leitch said.
When the team went into the conference tournament, Leitch said that they knew that they wanted to hone in on their strengths.
Leitch said something that really helped the team at the conference tournament game against Birmingham-Southern College was head coach Caitlyn Moriarty giving the team an inspirational speech before the game, letting them know that whatever happens at the game, they are enough.
“I think that really helped people settle their minds after losing to Birmingham- Southern twice this season,” Leitch said.
Moriarty’s speech allowed the team to know that they are loved by their coaches, which in turn allowed them to hone in on their strengths and be more comfortable in the conference tournament, according to Leitch.
Freshman outside hitter Peyton Breissinger said that Moriarty’s speech was especially inspirational for her personally.
“As a freshman, hearing that from your coach, it really gives you a lot of confidence to just go in and ball out, leave it all out on the court,” Breissinger said.
Leitch said that going into the regional tournament, they knew that it was going to be a difficult tournament because there were three top-10 teams at the tournament.
“Of course it was a heartbreaking loss on Saturday to Colorado College, but they just came in really wanting to play and challenging us,” Leitch said. “I don’t think there was anything more our team could have done.”
Breissinger said that, at this game, the team did not have as much fun as normal, which could have potentially contributed to the loss. However, she noted that it is impossible to win them all.
Since this year’s team had nine underclassmen, Leitch said that she believes that the team ended the season on a positive note.
She said that she is excited to see where the team goes over the next few seasons.
“I think we gave it our best that we had at that time because our bodies had really taken a beating, Breissinger said. “At that point, I think we were giving everything that we had, but that day, it wasn’t enough. We have to be okay with that.”
When looking back on this season as a whole and her time in the program in general, Leitch said that something that stands out to her about the program is how much joy is in it.
The joy as a whole is special, but something that stands out specifically this season is the fact that joy can be enjoyed in the valleys as well.
“We all climb to those mountain tops and that’s fine, but we also have to realize that you have to come down from that mountain top every so often and get down to the little details and get to the bottom of things,” Leitch said.
Leitch said that it has not hit her yet that her volleyball career is over. She said that the past four years came and went in the blink of an eye.
Even though she will no longer physically be on the volleyball roster, Leitch said that she will always be a part of the team because of the memories she has made and the relationships that she has formed in her four years on the team.
“I think that’s probably what I’m most proud of to be a part of this program and always will be proud to be a [Berry College volleyball] member,” Leitch said.
Breissinger said that her favorite aspect of this season was the relationships that she formed with her coaches and teammates.
“Coming in, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Breissinger said. “The big focus on culture that this team has and this program has is what really sets us apart from everyone else, so that’s something that I’m looking forward to building over the next three years that I’m here and continuing to pass it on to the incoming classes.”
Going forward, Breissinger said that she hopes to see the team get better and continue growing.
Breissinger said that she also hopes to push the incoming freshmen to be best that they can be to continue Berry volleyball’s legacy.