Starting 0-4, the Pirates resembled a ship without a captain.
This can be attributed to the Seton Hall volleyball team entering the post-Amanda Hansen era this season after she graduated in the spring of 2016. The team is missing the middle blocker who contributed to many Seton Hall wins, including more than 1,000 career kills.
After traversing some rough waters early on, members of the team found themselves home, and with their captain back on the court ready to guide them.
“Having Tessa (Fournier) back on the floor, it’s a leadership thing, it’s a communication thing,” head coach Allie Yeager said of the senior libero. “She gets everybody fired up and tells them what to do, and it’s huge to have her back.”
Fournier has steered the Pirates in the right direction since her return to action after missing their first three matches. She helped the Hall go 2-1 at the Seton Hall Classic, including a sweep against Canisius College. Last year, Fournier earned her second straight Big East Libero of the Year and led the Big East in digs with 583.
As Fournier brings her own dynamic to the team, she has fellow senior Danielle Schroeder to bring her own flair and skill set to the Pirates.
“I just try and pick everyone up especially if I don’t make a kill,” Schroeder, the team’s only other senior, said.
This was evident on Saturday, September 3 against Canisius where Schroeder’s animated personality and lively reactions got her teammates excited.
“I go crazy, and I know that affects everyone because they see how excited I am and they get excited, and it just makes us play a lot better.”
“I’ve waited for this year for Dani for a very long time,” Yeager said of the outside hitter, who currently leads the Hall with 68 kills after their first 6 matches. Fournier’s impact is not exclusive to the numbers, as her leadership and work ethic transitions to something fans do not see; chemistry.
“I think all four years Tessa and I have worked really hard in the spring and in the fall just to make ourselves stronger and better players for ourselves and the team,” Schroeder said. This senior duo will have a lot on their shoulders, but developing underclassmen are already stepping up.
“I think the girls who are sophomores have really worked hard in the spring last year, and springtime is really crucial for us,” Schroeder said. “So I’m really proud of all of them and our coaches did a great job of recruiting really good freshman and junior.”
In the early portion of the season, countless sophomores and underclassmen made a name for themselves with great energy. Cherise Hennigan is one sophomore to watch as she displayed her offensive prowess by racking up 67 kills, one short of kill leader Schroeder.
Junior Sarah Kenneweg and sophomore Sophia Coffey are competing hard in their roles of defensive specialist and setter, respectively. Kenneweg currently leads the Hall in digs with 58, while Coffey is averaging more than seven assists per set.
The roster is filled with more talent in freshmen like Haylee Gasser, or juniors like transfer Dominique Mason. Yeager noted one sophomore to watch.
“Abby Thelen, she’s not playing right now since she’s injured, but I would say Abby,” Yeager said. Before her injury, Thelen put her diverse game on display, racking up a strong amount of kills and digs.
It’s clear to see that the early season losses are not an issue of talent, but having the talent mesh after welcoming back Fournier to join Schroeder and company, the possibilities are endless for this youthful Pirate team.
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash