Entering her fourth season at Seton Hall, senior captain Abby Thelen knows how vital veteran leadership can be for a team. One of five seniors on this year’s women’s volleyball squad, Thelen is eager to share her experience and knowledge with some of her younger teammates.
“We have a lot of seniors this year, so I think all of us seniors need to lead the team really well,” Thelen said. “This isn’t new to us, so we need to be really confident so that if we make an error we can come back.”
For Thelen, confidence should not be an issue. A product of Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, Ky., Thelen is coming off her best season at Seton Hall, one in which resulted in an All-Big East First Team selection after leading her team in kills (430) and kills per set (3.61).
But Thelen’s career-defining moment may have occurred off the court. A switch from playing as a middle hitter during her freshman season to the outside position she has played the previous two years has helped propel Thelen into the top-of-the-conference player she is today.
Despite playing well in all 113 sets as a middle hitter during her rookie season, head coach Allison Yaeger felt she could get more use out of Thelen as an outside player.
“After her freshman year we were like ‘let’s start doing this and if it looks good, great. If it doesn’t, I don’t really know’,” Yaeger said “But it looked good and we knew it would eventually look like the way we wanted it to. We just all had to be patient with the process.”
Never one to shy from the big moment, Thelen has felt much more comfortable in her new role.
“My whole time is high school I was always a middle, but I love the outside so much more because it’s so much more involved in the game,” Thelen said. “I like being the person in crunch time and I think that’s someone who is always on the outside.”
One thing is for sure: Thelen is already off to a great start in her final campaign. She picked up right where she left off last season, garnering a 2018 Preseason All-Big East First Team selection for the first time in her career.
“With Abby, she’s great, she’s a leader, she’s a captain this year and we expect big things from Abby and I know she does too,” Yaeger said. “She got picked Preseason All-Big East which is what we expected.”
In a set against VCU during the Seton Hall Classic, Thelen became only the 11th Pirate to reach 1,000 career kills.
“I’m really happy I’ve gotten those awards because it shows how hard I’ve been working,” Thelen said. “I try to do everything for my team and that’s what I want to do this year as well.”
Despite accomplishing so much in her Seton Hall career Yaeger knows Thelen will remain hungry.
“Abby has been great for us the last couple years and we have really high expectations for her coming into her senior year as I know she does as well,” Yaeger said. “She wants to be up for a contender for the Big East Player of the year this year and I think that’s possible, but we have to be a good team as well.”
With Thelen ready to help lead a veteran Pirate squad, there is much confidence surrounding the team to accomplish big goals.
“I’ve only been to the Big East Tournament once, so I definitely want to be back there, but I don’t want to just go. I want to finish in first,” Thelen said. “Winning a Big East Championship would be awesome and such a cool experience.”
“These girls deserve it and I know it’s been on their mind for the last couple of years,” Yaeger said. “We’re finally a veteran team and it’s time to get stuff done.”
Nick Santoriello can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.