It’s never an easy task to overcome the loss of seniors who made up most of a team’s production, including one outside hitter who finished in the top five in school history for kills. Head volleyball coach Allison Yaeger is now tasked with mixing a strong freshman class with some returning veterans in order to guide this year’s team to success.
The Pirates have not started the way that they wanted, though, as they have been plagued by injuries and are still getting acclimated to new roles.
Yaeger, now her eighth season at Seton Hall, sees the early injuries and youth much more as a positive than a negative.
“We are very young and have a lot of people playing positions that they’ve never played before,” Yaeger said. “Instead of this equaling a formula for disaster for us, we’re going to take the negative and turn it into positive. It’s important tot build on this season and take it one day at a time. Our first two matches of the season were surprising for all of us, we had a big talk about that and wanted to be fresher, to just have fun out there.”
Seniors Maggie Cvelbar, Madison Salkowski, who missed last season with a torn ACL, and Haylee Gasser are expected to lead the Pirate squad, with the former setting up plays and the latter finishing them off.
Gasser, a midle blocker, started off the first weekend of the season hot, almost tallying 30 kills in three games. The California native was initially unable to carry the play into the Seton Hall Classic last weekend, only registering 11 kills in the first three games before her 17-kill outburst in the finale of the tournament.
Coach Yaeger noted the fluidity of Gasser plays and looks to her senior captain to be the engine to motivate a Pirate roster that includes eight freshmen.
“Haley is our captain, she’s our leader,” Yaeger said. “She’s our sixth rotation outside and I tell Haley all the time – ‘I know you’re really competitive and I know you want to win, and so do I… but you have to put the smile on your face and encourage your teammates. She is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. When things are going our way, Haley can get down on herself but we have to just keep her up; if Haley’s playing well, we’re playing well.”
In the Seton Hall Classic, the Pirates have historically played three games over that weekend. In this past weekend, Seton Hall played four opponents over two days and had to manage its rotations in order to stay fit and ready for the challenges in front of them.
“We still have a couple of big weekends ahead of us and we have to get used to playing with the person to the right of us and the left of us,” Yaeger said. “You really have to have trust and with all the new pieces and new positions, they don’t know to play the ball to the right or left. The more volleyball we could play, the better. I’m happy that we played four matches instead of three because it gives us more time to figure out what we want to do moving forward.”
Evando Thompson can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @ethmps.