Don’t think for a second that the Missouri Western volleyball team is just going to settle for a better record than last year’s dismal 4-32 showing.
With new coach Cory Frederick at the helm, this is a team that wants to put the past out of mind and build for the future.
Frederick is a former assistant volleyball coach at Western and was the Park University men’s team head coach for five seasons, leading them to a NAIA title and the best winning percentage in the school’s history. He takes over a team that finished last year at the bottom of the conference and was slated last in the preseason’s coach’s poll.
Though the transition may be drastic for some, Frederick sees it as an opportunity for the team.
“The trick is what we focus on,” Frederick said. “We focus on our skills and our chemistry as a team, not what happened last year. We have to get this team to love volleyball.”
Western returns three seniors to help lead the team this year including last year’s assist leader Madison Benton, dig leader Shari Tompkins and middle hitter Allison Smith.
These three leaders will help guide the team during their final season and are already planning on putting their opponents on notice about their improvement.
Benton said that the team plans on playing above their ranking early.
“We’re going to surprise out of the gate,” Benton said. “I think a lot of teams are going to be upset at the outcome of the games against us. We have 10 returning freshmen from last year who saw time last year. With the skills we are working on, it is a matter of chemistry and a matter of time.”
Tompkins added that the team doesn’t want to lose the focus they have worked on early but they want to make the most of their last year.
“We want to come up and have fun again,” Tompkins said. “Our position will allow us to sneak up on people and we are going to use that to our advantage to shock people.”
Even though the players have a bright outlook, the team will be tested early when they open up conference play with early matches against top ranked Emporia State and Washburn University in September.
Frederick is letting his team step up to the early challenges.
“We have no expectation except those that are self-imposed,” Frederick said. “Our job as coaches is to put the team in to a position to win. We (the coaches) will worry about our opponents and let the team focus on their skills.”
The Griffons will open their season on Aug. 28 at Sioux Falls, S.D. in the Augustana Tournament. The season’s first home game will be Sept. 16 when the Griffons host Fort Hays State.