The shouts ring out from the tiny gymnasium and can be heard from a hundred feet or so down the hall. They seem to have a pattern about them.
A loud cheer – seven or eight seconds of squeaking sneakers and hollow thumps – and then another set of screams.
From down the hall it sounds like an odd ritual of sorts, but upon closer review, it is the Quinnipiac women’s volleyball team hard at work. The screaming, while coming from most players at some point or the other, remains constant from one. That player is junior right setter, or libero, Erin Overdevest. She’s leading her team in a drill, and as soon as each cycle ends, Overdevest can be heard leading the cheers.
And this is just a practice.
Off the court however, Overdevest is far from the fiery-natured commander she presents as a player. She walks on eggshells, careful not to say anything out of place or hurtful. She seems cut out not as a libero but as a future librarian. As co-captain Jen Benigno points out though, when Overdevest hits the court, “It’s the complete opposite.”
Her drive is complimented by a work ethic usually reserved for professionals. Head Coach Robin Sparks has had to reign in her captain a number of times.
“She’ll come in when we have split days on sessions that aren’t hers, just to come in and to touch the ball,” Sparks said.
This work ethic translates to her academic life as well. As an occupational therapy major, one of the most difficult that Quinnipiac offers, she is never lacking in school work. According to Benigno, Overdevest uses this as a leadership opportunity.
“She’s a really great role model, especially with her academics,” Benigno said. “Just by her GPA, I’m pretty sure it’s the highest on the team.”
Like a true competitor, Erin adds “I want to be the best at both.”
Her competitive fire comes natural to her, as if it were ingrained in her DNA. Erin’s two older brothers, Jon and Ryan, were both NCAA Division I athletes as well.
From a young age, Erin was molded as a competitor by her big brothers’ tough love.
“My two older brothers always picked on me when I was younger,” Overdevest said. “So I’m really competitive because of that.”
And she won’t hesitate to show some tough love to her teammates either, as she notes, “Some of the girls are actually a little bit intimidated.”
It was also Jon and Ryan who were partially responsible for her introduction to the game she now excels at. Overdevest, who hails from Bridgeton, N.J., attended high school 45 minutes away in Wilmington, Del.
“They didn’t want me to go to the public school nearby, like five minutes away,” she said. “They were trying to look out for their little sister. The best private school around would be in Delaware.”
It was there at Tatnall School that the volleyball coach first noticed the tall, athletic soccer player. She was convinced to join the team and immediately excelled, helping lead her team to the top of the conference standings.
However despite her immediate success in the sport, volleyball didn’t always look like it would be the path Overdevest would take. In fact, without her intense competitive drive, coupled with an unlucky injury, her career at Quinnipiac may never have been. She was a soccer buff throughout her childhood and into high school, until an arm injury forced her to shift her concentration.
“I changed sports when I broke my elbow,” Overdevest said. “My coach wouldn’t let me try out for the team while I was recovering, so I played on the B team.”
Being the competitor that she is, she simply could not accept playing against lesser competition, and the switch was made. Overdevest would go on to set the career record in kills for the Tatnall School.
Despite being heavily recruited by a number of schools, Overdevest opted for the school with the best academic program for her intended OT major. She found it in Hamden and decided to try out for the volleyball team. As a walk on, she would have to change positions, going from the main attacking role that she knew so well in high school, to the defensive, free-roaming libero.
While she developed a zeal for the defensive aspects of the game, the same could not be said of the university’s interest in the program itself. The constant state of limbo of the program, coupled with the constant head coach merry-go-round (five head coaches in three years) could have shattered the team’s spirit and competitive will. It was here that Overdevest first showed the signs of a true leader. She inspired in her teammates a fervor for the game, which she says was the key to the program’s survival.
Going from a successful team in high school to one which has won only two games in the past two years isn’t easy for anyone, especially Overdevest.
“Losing isn’t really fun, but you have to look past it and look to the future,” she said.
Being able to recruit again next season will certainly help after two years of fielding walk-on players. The influx of top talent next year, paired with a team that she says has “finally started to come together,” has Overdevest seeing great things for the team in the future.
In her words, “The high point is right now.”