Volleyball remains humble through newfound success

Logan Reardon

This year the Quinnipiac women’s volleyball team has experienced the most successful season in program history. After winning just three games last year, the Bobcats are 17-8 this season and still have six games left to play.

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Head coach Kris Czaplinski, now in his fifth year with the Bobcats, is seeing a vast change in the atmosphere around the team. In the offseason, he made an effort to turn things around.

“This year I got a new assistant [Chad Davis]. We completely changed around the locker room. We have health that we never had before, and we have depth that we’ve never had before,” Czaplinski said. “We have a ton of confidence now. It’s a collection of everything.”

All of these changes have amounted to success for the Bobcats. They currently sit second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) standings, trailing only undefeated Fairfield in the race for the top seed. The players echoed a similar message when asked about the turnaround from last season.

“It’s definitely a relief,” junior middle hitter Elizabeth Kloos said. “You never know what you’re going to walk into at the beginning of a season, but at the beginning of this season you could just tell there was a change from last season right away. It’s very exciting to be a part of.”

Kloos says that offseason work and preparation were key in the turnaround. That was evident when the Bobcats raced out to a 5-1 start to the year.

“The way that we were working in preseason and the way the coaches changed, really it just all came together and our two styles really meshed,” Kloos said. “The group of girls we have this year is just awesome. We all really love each other for the first time.”

Besides the coaching, another key has been the addition of first-year players. The Bobcats only lost one senior from last season’s team and added six freshman players.

“The coaching is a big part of it,” sophomore Kat Miller said. “Definitely the freshmen that came in really have helped make a difference in the way that we play. Freshmen Natalie [Alechko], Maria [Pansari] and Alejandra [Rodriguez] have been huge for us. Everyone has been contributing.”

Alechko is second on the team in kills. Pansari leads the team by averaging over 10 assists per set, and she is also second on the team in service aces. Rodriguez is third on the team in aces.

Quinnipiac is now experiencing something it is not accustomed to. The team has more wins this season (17) than in the last five seasons combined (16). With their newfound success, the Bobcats have emphasized keeping their composure.

“They’re level-headed,” Czaplinski said. “When we get back after a game, we are already refocusing on the next game. We have to take care of practice and make sure we are doing the small things right. We keep telling them to be humble throughout this whole process because they’ve never experienced this before, so it’s just kind of reiterating the same stuff and trying to get them ready for the next game.”

Quinnipiac has shown resilience all season, and they can point to this humility as a reason why. After losing three straight games to fall to 5-4 on the season, the Bobcats responded with wins in nine of their next 10 games.

Despite all of the success this season, which will include an upcoming trip to the MAAC tournament, the coaching staff continues to look ahead one game at a time.

“The playoffs are too far ahead,” Czaplinski said. “There’s a lot of great teams underneath us right now and to even think about the playoffs right now would be a slap in the face to them.”

Teams like Marist and Niagara sit right beneath Quinnipiac and could jump them in the standings if the Bobcats take their foot off the gas pedal.

“The coaching staff is really just focused on practice every day and that next game ahead of us,” Czaplinski said. “If we get too ahead of ourselves, we’re going to start underestimating teams and they are going to start picking us off. We should never be in a position to underestimate anyone.”

While the coaching staff is not looking that far ahead, the players are certainly amped to get their first taste of playoff action.

“It’s definitely exciting knowing we are going to make the tournament this year, for the first time ever, after beating Marist,” Kloos said. “Right now we are focused on keeping the No. 2 spot in the MAAC standings that way we can stay away from Fairfield as long as we can.”

Fairfield sits a perfect 11-0 in MAAC play, having defeated Quinnipiac 3-0 on Oct. 8 at Burt Kahn Court in Hamden. Fairfield presents a daunting challenge for Quinnipiac, but the team remains hungry for another chance at the Stags.

“It’s definitely really exciting,” Miller said. “We want to keep that No. 2 seed and hopefully play Fairfield in the MAAC final.”