Men’s Volleyball starts off first season on a rocky note}

First-years Carlyle Campbell (front) and Matthew Shepphard (back) wait for a serve in a game against Carolina University.

McKenna Howenstine|Marlin Chronicle

The year of 2024 brings excitement as the recently installed program, Men’s Volleyball, begins its season. The team is coached by the exact same coaching staff as the successful Women’s Volleyball program. 

The task of building a new program itself is arduous, and to juggle it with the task of maintaining another accomplished program seems nearly impossible. Head Coach Karissa Cumberbatch acknowledged its difficulty, yet she manages with the help of her coaching staff. 

“It’s long days for me, and I don’t get much time off, but we manage… There are three on the coaching staff, so we try to split up some responsibilities on the weekends and make sure we’re showing face and we’re everywhere we need to be,” Cumberbatch said. 

Despite the overwhelming responsibility that comes with coaching multiple teams, Cumberbatch did mention an advantage to overseeing both programs.

“They are very supportive of one another and have grown some amazing relationships out of that. I have seen in other programs where one coaches the women, one coaches the men, and sometimes they have nothing to do with one another,” Cumberbatch said.

With the first half of the men’s season just about finished, their record stands at 2-8, with most games ending in a set of 0-3 and sometimes 1-3. 

“I was not shy when I made our schedule. Randolph Macon is a top 20 team; Marymount is a top 20 team. We’re gonna play Southern Virginia, who’s ranked third in D3 right now… we’re playing people that we are going to see and be like, ‘In three years, that is where we want to be,’” Cumberbatch said. 

First-year members of the Men’s Volleyball team Aiden Parker and Carlyle Campbell commented on this record. “I think that despite that record, we’ve faced pretty solid opponents, and I think our coach is giving us good competition,” Parker said. “With every loss comes something we should improve on.” 

Campbell agreed, and said, “For a first year team, we’re really good, but we could do better.” 

Upon a closer look at the results of the team’s games, the point differences within sets are relatively close, and there is usually less than a ten point difference between the Marlins and their opponents. For a new program to be able to keep up with seasoned competition, it must have promising talent. However, Cumberbatch sees the lack of seniority in the program as the problem. 

“I think the biggest challenge is just the women have been around for a long time, so there’s always senior leadership kind of that has established some pregame rituals… the boys have to start new and figure that all out on their own,” Cumberbatch said. 

Her players agreed, as Parker noted the necessity of “building a culture.” Parker said, “We have no seniority and we as a group need to apply that culture for ourself.” 

Campbell added that they lacked “emotional consistency” and said, “We need to gather our heads and lock in when times are tough.” They also both acknowledged the need to “give each other grace.” 

Despite these weaknesses, the team is confident in its abilities.

“I mean, we are extremely talented,” Cumberbatch said. “Our talent, our athletic ability is for sure something that is amazing that we were able to bring in that in our very first year.” 

Parker and Campbell also talked about the athletic capacities of the team. “Our defensive capabilities are really strong. We have a lot of really tall defenders… Even on offense, we have raw, athletic players to get the job done when needed,” Parker said. 

Campbell said, “We thrive when the other team is talking trash… we respond well to negative situations.” 

Adding on to the competitive nature of the team, Parker said, “We have loud personalities on the bench that bring the fire… It helps to have a motivating bench… when they are not there you know because their presence is missing.”

Improving the weaknesses of the team and building upon their strengths is important; however, it is equally important to do the same for the coaching staff. 

“The two assistant coaches have that off-the-court relationship with us that the head does not… They are personable, they are really down to earth, we can talk to them, they are there for you,” Parker said. “The team and Coach K need to be more vulnerable… all three help us to be better players, just lacking the emotional aspect and close relationship with [Coach K].”

Campbell commented on the nature of Cumberbatch’s coaching, and said, “I trust Coach K. I may not like or love the tough love at times, but I do not take it personally because I know she’s not going to steer me in the wrong direction. That’s how I was raised, so I am used to it… it does push me to be better.” 

In light of her strengths, Parker said that Cumberbatch is still talented. “There have been times where someone has told me to do something, and I tried it a lot and it did not work, but Coach K told me one simple thing and I immediately saw improvement,” Parker said. “There’s a method to her madness. She knows what she’s doing.” 

Cumberbatch acknowledged the need to build better relationships with her players. “I think it’s gonna take me time for them to trust me… I don’t think I have the whole group just yet,” Cumberbatch said. “[It] takes time to build bonds and create chemistry with one another… I think we’re getting there but it’s just going to take a minute.” 

The Marlins won their most recent match and are now 3-8, and have won two straight games. Follow their journey to see how the season plays out for the team.

By: Sydnee Washington