The women’s volleyball team is hosting its one and only tournament of the spring semester on Sunday, April 15 at the Harwood Arena. The team is scheduled to play Seton Hall University, New York University, Bloomfield College, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Stevens University will also be attending; however, they will not be competing against Kean.
The team’s complete playing schedule for Sunday is as follows:
10 a.m. - Kean vs. NYU
12:30 p.m. - Kean vs. Seton Hall
1:45 p.m. - Kean vs. NJIT
4:15 p.m. - Kean vs. Bloomfield
While this is the volleyball team’s only chance to scrimmage other teams outside of the first semester, this isn’t the first time they’ve touched a ball since their fall season ended. The athletes have been training for weeks now to be as prepared as possible for this opportunity.
Don Perkins, the head coach of the women’s volleyball program, has worked hard to get his team enough practice time throughout these past few weeks despite bouts of inclement weather and other sports vying for gym space. The team took advantage of time slots when and where they could get them, including practices at 6 a.m. at East Campus.
“The first couple of weeks were about expanding our base of skills, individually and collectively, and seeing who was ready to step in and fill the shoes of the departing seniors,” Perkins said.
One of the biggest factors that has driven the Cougars throughout the spring was the wake of their standout fall season. They went undefeated in conference play and beat Stockton University in the finals to become NJAC champions. This earned the team a trip to the NCAA tournament. Although Johns Hopkins University eliminated them in the first round of the tournament, the season culminated in five All-NJAC selections and an AVCA All-American selection for senior Sara Ridgeway.
These victories have given the women’s volleyball team a high standard to maintain during the spring and upcoming fall season. While their accomplishments do have a lot of gravity, Perkins was careful to stress during the spring that these accolades aren’t an excuse to rest, but a reason to push even harder.
“Maybe we weren't quite as hungry the first day or two, but fortunately we have a very deep team and 16 competitive women in the gym,” Perkins said. “They do push each other to be better the majority of the time, and whatever their motivation is, we've seen growth in everybody in one way or another.”
Spring volleyball differs from fall for the volleyball team in that spring matches aren’t counted or considered for rankings. Therefore, Perkins views the annual spring scrimmage as an experiment to test different combinations of players on the court in the hopes of discovering systems that work.
“Only this last week leading up to the scrimmage did we start making lineups with any intention and even then we will try to play everybody on the scrimmage day, so it's not like we are building one strong lineup with a couple of contingencies,” Perkins said. “We are going to have six to eight lineups that we will use on Sunday.”
Additionally, as Seton Hall and NJIT are both Division I teams and Bloomfield College is a Division II team, this scrimmage offers the Cougars a unique opportunity to compete at a level higher than is typically available in their conference. Despite the implications of a Division III team playing against teams from higher conferences, Perkins hopes the intensity will challenge the girls to refine their skills and execute efficiently.
“It’s a chance to just play and have fun with it, and hopefully we see the players using some things that we've been working on - serving harder, a faster offensive tempo, our communication, and staying poised against a good opponent,” Perkins said. “We'd like to win every set but that isn't the key to take away here. It's about executing the things we want to improve at, and if we do that then we'll have chance,” said Perkins.
With four matches taking place at varying times throughout the day, this scrimmage offers many opportunities to see the women’s volleyball team take on some of their biggest competition yet. Students are encouraged to visit Harwood Arena on Sunday and witness what the Cougars have prepared in their off-season.