The UM-Dearborn volleyball team in a pre-game lineup before its contest with Indiana Tech. (Photo courtesy of Ferrell Mayes).
(Ricky Lindsay/MJ)
(Ricky Lindsay/MJ)

By GABRIELLE JOSEPH, GUEST COLUMNIST

It was November 8, 2014. The University of Michigan-Dearborn volleyball team was playing in a tournament at Davenport University. They would face Aquinas College to close out the 2014-15 season. The ladies went into the match with two losses and no wins, losing both matches in a straight three sets.

They knew this was their last chance to show everyone what they’ve worked for all year. The countless amount of hours practicing, the conditioning, and the late nights staying up to study and do homework were almost over. They knew they had to put everything they had out onto the court.

Which is exactly what they did.

They gave their heart and soul but it just wasn’t enough. The team would end the 2014-15 season with a heartbreaking 0-32 record.

It’s a new season now. A different story. A different team. A higher level of momentum.

The team has already had a total of four wins this year. They knew they had to make changes to improve altogether.

In the off-season, the team added six new fresh faces. A junior college transfer from Macomb Community and five freshmen.

The new team members have already showed influence both on and off the court. “The incoming players have made a huge impact. There is not a time when we do not have a first year player on the court,” said head volleyball coach Eric Stark. “Shayla is currently 4th in the conference in Kills Per Set and 13th in attack percentage. Katherine Nealy is 7th in the conference in Blocks Per Set. Every first year player has made serious contributions as well as pushed our returners to be better.”

Senior captain Colby DeMare, who has had very impressive numbers this season, comments, “Our team has made many adjustments from last year. We have worked a ton on making our offense very quick. We are running very fast sets and making sure to use all hitters as options rather than one hitter being a main point.”

The team had much more on their agenda in the off-season as well. Stark said, “The team worked hard during the off-season to get stronger, healthier, and faster, and that commitment is showing.”

A faster offense has seemed to make quite a difference for the team. When something isn’t working, you have to change it and they did.

Megan Wright, a senior who transferred last year from Schoolcraft said, “We are running a much faster offense this year which has given us an advantage over some teams.”

The Wolverines are in the WHAC division and face several competitive teams throughout the season. They have played five division games winning one against Marygrove College. The team has made each match close though, giving their opponents a run for their money.

Stark believes that the team has physically improved a lot. He stated, “We are physically much improved. The next big hurdle for us to overcome is the mental confidence to go along with our new physicality.”

When asked what has been the team’s greatest strength this season, DeMare responded with, “One of our greatest strengths has been that the team chemistry on and off the court is much more positive. I love having a team environment that is fun and competitive. It fuels me to do better and gets me excited to come to practice everyday.”

The ladies continue to learn and grow as a team more and more each day: at practice, in their games, and in the classroom.

Being a student athlete is tough but these ladies define exactly what it’s like. They go out onto the court and leave their hearts out there. They defy the odds and don’t let anything negative get to them. They’re a true example of what it’s like to be apart of a team, the good and the bad.

The Wolverines still have a total of 18 games to go this year. They have a huge fan base who knows that they’ll work their hardest this season to make the name on the front of their jersey something even more to be proud of.