Rosemary Chesney, asst. sports editor
With only two seniors, the Berry women’s volleyball team is one of the youngest teams in the conference, made up mainly of freshmen and sophomores who haven’t experienced a full season. Despite the players’ limited collegiate experience, the volleyball team won the regular season championship title, ranking them first as they launch into the final conference tournament.
Due to the limited season in 2020, this season is the first full season for the team’s sophomores. Regardless of this challenge, the team had an overall record of 19-2 and conference record of 13-1, losing only to Emory University and Birmingham- Southern University. The team beat Birmingham -Southern later in the season, however, after replaying them.
“All of our success is due to the work we invest in our culture,” Head Coach Caitlyn Moriarty said. “We want to win but win in the right way. Volleyball will end one day, and we want to teach things in this program to help them become better women and ready [for life] after college.”
The two seniors for the 2021 season are Anna Rumore, a defensive specialist, and Laura Beier, the team’s libero, a back row volleyball position. The team captains include junior Jen Aten; outside hitter and defensive specialist; junior Emily Rapach, setter, and sophomore Jasmynn Innis, outside hitter.
“[The team captains] have done a great job at being consistent and accessible to the team if someone is struggling or needs accountability,” Moriarty said. “One important characteristic for the team is love. Often, we hear about the gentle side of love, but love is also calling someone out and holding them accountable.”
With many recent injuries, the team’s underclassmen were forced to play positions they had not previously played during their game against Centre College and in the non-conference tournament last weekend. Assistant Coach JT Oates said that their biggest advantage during these games was the “close knit” community on the team.
“I’m most proud of their cohesiveness as a team,” Oates said. “This season has really been a whole team effort rather than just a few all stars,”
Being a very young team, the volleyball team faced many challenges during the season. Multiple players experienced injuries throughout the season. Also, with a highly talented team, some players were not able to play as much during games as hoped for.
“It’s important to realize that every single person on the team really adds value and makes everyone better whether they’re starting or coming off the bench or not playing on the game day,” Moriarty said. “When a team is good, the challenge comes of having people find their role. Once they know their role and believe in what the team’s trying to accomplish, their experience becomes better.”
Moriarty said that their goal is to win the conference championship tournament, played at Berry on Nov. 5, 6 and 7. If the team wins this tournament, they will proceed to the NCAA tournament to compete with 64 teams from across the country. In preparation for the conference tournament, the team played a non-conference tournament last weekend against Emory University, Randolf Macon College and Washington and Lee University.
“One of the biggest challenges now is just finishing the season,” Innis said. “We beat everyone in our conference and now we just have to do it again. We have a target on our backs because we’ve done so well, and now we need to finish strong.”
The outcome of the conference tournament on Nov. 5, 6 and 7 will determine which team proceeds to the NCAA tournament. Moriarty’s vision is to win the NCAA championship in the next few years. With the upcoming beach volleyball program in the Spring, she expects that Berry will attract “excellent players who see the value of the program, strengthening the volleyball program and setting them up for success.