Marist Women’s Volleyball is currently one of the school’s top teams. With a 10-6 conference record, the Red Foxes have their eyes set on a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship. If they achieve this, it would be their first in program history.
However, if one asked the team, and the coaching staff about these odds a year ago, the answer would be completely different. They finished last season with a record of 14-15, one win short of breaking even.
Such a record was not always the case for the team last season. Senior middle blocker, Stephanie Stone saw the downward slope begin: “Last season, we were either second or first in the MAAC conference for a majority of the first half, and then we went to Buffalo, and we ended up losing to Canisius and Niagara in five sets, and that kind of just made it really difficult for us to bounce back for the rest of the season after that.”
This “downward trajectory,” as Stone called it, caused some serious changes in the front end of the team. The former head coach left, and then the school went and hired Sean Bryon. In his first season with the team, he is impressed with the direction the red foxes are going in.
“I got hired in May,” Bryon said of the transition. “And actually, most of their spring training, the offseason was done. I was only here for one week in the spring. Any team that gets a new staff, it’s always a difficult transition. I think, at the end of the day, the kids bought in that the most important thing was, you know, win games and have good experiences.”
That’s exactly what the Red Foxes did, but the start was slow. Many of their first opponents were larger division Division I schools such as Alabama, Buffalo, and San Jose State.
“We always have a really difficult preseason schedule, and that takes up about nine games.” said Stone. “It’s pretty intense and it’s done like that by design that way we can see how we stack up against really good teams to help us prepare for our own conference.”
After their strenuous preseason tear against some of NCAA’s best, they went on to win three straight games. It brought confidence, swagger, and put a chip on their shoulders.
“We don’t want to have a repeat, like, if we lost to a team last season, or even earlier in the season, we don’t want to lose to them again. We really want to come out strong,” explained Stone.
Bryon says that losing can come with a cyclical energy. He acknowledged that it is important that the team thinks positively every day.
“I think our energy level has been better at the end of the season, and some of that is probably typical since we’re in the mix for a championship,” said Byron. “Last year they were kind of beat-down and I think the energy hurt at the end of the year.”
The secrets regarding what goes on at practice, on the bench, in team meetings — the secret ingredient, if you will — are locked away. They believe the change in coaching has brought in a lot of positivity for the players, for the people involved, and for the sport and culture surrounding volleyball here at Marist.
“Sean’s doing a great job,” says Stone. “He’s definitely a 180 from our coach last year, just the way he runs practice. He has a huge whiteboard with a practice plan and it lists goals, stats, just everything out on that whiteboard so we can see where we are. He’s awesome and we love him.”
Byron notes one last thing on the progress of the team; the importance of taking things step-by-step and day-by-day.
“In September and October you aren’t going to be a finished product, but you need to be better on September 2 than you were on September 1. I think we just want to talk about being good everyday.”
Edited by Lily Caffrey-Levine and Dan Statile