Volleyball Set to Serve a Winning Season

By Marc Weems

With the 2016 Youngstown State University’s women’s volleyball team starting a new season, it is important to find out how they will do.

After a 0-21 season, they are looking to bounce back in grand fashion. After losing four seniors from last year’s team, the Penguins are looking to recoup and regain their forward momentum from previous years.

Senior Val Jeffrey sets up a teammate during a home match against Cleveland State University.

Head coach Mark Hardaway is ready to take on the year knowing their strengths in hand and all in to win this season.

“This year we hope that our ball control can become our biggest strength, along with our passing and defense,” Hardaway said. “We are very deep in those positions, and we know that is something we, as a team, are going to have to succeed at. It is something we are putting a lot of time into during practice to get better at those things. We will find out throughout the season what our true weaknesses are and we will be able to build from our strengths onto our weaknesses.”

Hardaway also mentioned that although their main strengths are passing and defense, those things will only become noticeable as the season progresses.

Gabriella Strazzeri, a junior transfer from Iowa Western Community College, spoke on the move to YSU and how the team is progressing together.

“It’s clearly a big step up in the level of volleyball being played here compared to where I was before. The girls are all very friendly and helpful, so that’s very easy,” Strazzeri said. “We communicate a lot outside of practice, so that helps us when we are playing as well. I fit in well because I love playing defense; it is my best position. I’m working on receiving serves and setting others up well. I think everything has gone well so far and can continue to.”

Setter Val Jeffery spoke about the strengths and growth that she has seen leading up to the season as a leader of the team.

“We’ve been extremely competitive in the gym. I think that everyone has bought into our goal to come straight from the bottom all the way to the top,” Jeffery said. “I know Hardaway and I discussed right after last season that our goal is to win the conference. We understand that is going to be a huge turnaround. Just buying into that goal is big for us.”

Hardaway said the team is going to have to step up because four seniors graduated from last season, and they had a significant impact on the Penguins’ success over the past few seasons.

“There is definitely an opportunity for other girls to step into the roles they played. We would expect someone like Gabby [Strazzeri] to step up,” Hardaway said. “The competition on our lead row spots is very high. We have several girls competing for a spot, and whoever wins that spot is going to be battle tested. We are going to be playing many different lineups and finding out what works as the season goes on. Someone like Sarah Varcolla will be moving into her natural positon at the left side hitter area, so that will help quite a bit.”

Val Jeffery said certain players will have to contribute at a much higher rate than they did the year before.

“Lori Van Beek is going to be great this season. The timing between the two of us is much improved. We’ve gotten more efficient as a combination,” Jeffrey said. “Also, Sam Brown, who will be a captain this season, has stepped up her defensive game and is quite hard to score on.”

The Penguins will play their first home match of the year when they take on Duquesne University on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Beeghly Center.