Kelby Carey, Kayla Lawler and Taylor Payne each played in all 30 games last year and saw a lot of players go down with injury.
Though early in the season, they have seen one thing new: added depth.
A year removed from an injury-plagued team which once only included eight active full-time volleyball players for a game, the Quinnipiac Bobcats have a team loaded with new weapons and players ready to step in when needed.
Libero Logan Riker went down with a hurt knee in the third set in Friday night’s five-set victory and couldn’t play on. Two key underclassmen filled in for Riker, who led the team in digs last season.
Tracy Wright had a team-high 18 digs while freshman Krista Bennett recorded 13. The two combined for 20 of the team’s 27 digs in the fourth set alone, which the Bobcats won 25-19.
“When Logan went out, we really felt like we had to step it up because she’s a big presence on our team,” said Carey, who finished with a double-double of 13 kills and 12 digs. “Without her, we really had to come together and just step up.”
Twelve of Bennett’s 13 digs came without Riker on the court, while 15 of Wright’s digs were in the last three sets.
Perhaps the biggest impact came from freshman Tierra Allen. Allen earned 13 kills and had a game-high two solo blocked shots. Seven of Allen’s kills came in the fourth and fifth sets when the Bobcats faced a loss.
“This is the best freshmen class we’ve ever had come in since I’ve been here,” Payne said. “Their ability to play so many positions and their willingness to be out on the court and to be focused is through the roof.”
Though Brittanie Robinson only saw action in two sets, she provided a crucial assisted block in the fourth set to give the Bobcats a 23-19 advantage in a set they would win, 25-19.
“Even Brittanie Robinson hit fantastic tonight, and we’re using her as a sub,” Quinnipiac head coach Robin Lamott Sparks said. “We have that ability to, when someone’s having an off time, bring someone in. We have interchangeable parts this year, and that’s really helpful.”
Said Carey: “Usually with freshmen, they might freak out, but they were very steady, very calm. I didn’t think they were freshmen.”
A year ago, the team needed to recruit players from other sports to fill in temporarily, and three softball players did.
“We’re really lucky this year,” Payne said. “Last year it was whoever can stand got on the court, and this year we have so many options, as you can see. We changed it mid-match and we still got the win.”
Quinnipiac’s roster last season only had 12 players, including graduate student Amanda Armstrong and an injured Stephanie Biediger.
With 14 total players on this year’s team, including eight underclassmen, Sparks said the team is motivated to play.
“I think our underclassmen are really helping push our upperclassmen,” she said.
With a healthy roster, the difference in depth goes as far as practices to see the difference.
“We have great practices now, so we can go six-on-six, and we haven’t been able to do that,” Sparks said. “It makes a big difference.”
The Bobcats proved to themselves and to their opponents that an injury won’t prevent them from winning.
“It’s an important thing to know that if we can do it that one time, we can do it every time,” Payne said.