New coach, new season for volleyball

Steve Nicastro

The women’s volleyball team is hoping that a new coach can help guide them to a successful season after a disappointing 06′ campaign.

The Bobcats are led by Robin Lamont Sparks, who was named their new head coach on Aug. 31st. Sparks brings much experience and enthusiasm to the job, as well as recruiting opportunities through the USA Volleyball Youth and Junior Division programs, whom she has been with since 2003.

She spent the last three years as the head varsity volleyball coach at Troy High School in Troy, N.Y., where she was awarded the Albany Times Union Volleyball Coach of the Year award. She is very excited to be a part of the program and thinks that the team has a lot of potential.

“Last year we improved from the beginning to the end of the year,” Sparks said. “Things will just get better.”

And so far, things have been getting better. Sparks recently won her first collegiate game as the women’s head coach, defeating Rider University 3-0 Friday night in the first game of the Bobcat Invitational. The win improved the team’s overall record to 1-5 on the season, and the victory has already matched the team’s win total from last year, a year in which they went 1-7 in conference play. While it was a very exciting win for Sparks, she thinks the women on the team deserve most of the credit.

“It was great to get the first win, but I was more excited for the girls and their families,” Sparks said. “The girls have been working really hard.”

Co-Captain Jenna Benigno will lead the team from the Outside Hitter position. Benigno, a junior, led the team last year in kills with 183 and was second on the team in assists and digs.

“It’s important that we stay positive and attack from the start,” Benigno said.

Crista Valentino and Erin Overdevest will join Benigno as tri-captains this season.

Overdevest, a junior, is going to be relied on heavily as one of the teams leaders. She is coming off a stellar season last year in which she led the team in digs and was named team MVP. Valentino was second on the team last year in kills. She believes that the team is already showing signs of improvement from last year, and that all the hard work has been paying off.

“We have really been coming together as a team and communicating well,” Valentino said. “Our level of play is higher than last year, and we’ve felt more comfortable.”

The future looks bright for the team, as the girls return most of their starters from last season and are relatively young, having only one senior on the squad. Newcomer Kristen Corinaldesi and freshman Sara McCarthy bring youth to the squad and will see some playing time.

Sophomore Janelle Walz returns after seeing action in 85 games a year ago, a year in which she tallied 78 digs and 73 kills.

The Bobcats will be on the road in the Rose Hill Classic Sept. 13 in The Bronx. There they will play CCSU, Fordham University, and Seton Hall University.

Their next home games will be at the Quinnipiac Invitational Oct. 6 at 11 a.m. and Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. at Burt Kahn Court.