Virginia Wesleyan Volleyball dominance has been on display for the school to see and the team has been eager to continue. The Marlins are 21-7 overall this year and 9-2 in their conference and are showing promise that this excellence will continue this season.
Coach Karissa Cumberbatch, the new volleyball head coach, has had an overwhelming effect on the Women’s Volleyball team. As the leader of the women’s team, she has only thrown more coal into the already burning fire. “With me taking over the culture of the program, our goals really haven’t changed much. We’ve really tried to push ourselves in the practice aspect of things and have gone harder, faster and we are trying to play higher. We try to maximize our touches in practice every single day. We definitely are in shape, we really revamped. We used the weight room over the summertime and that’s been helping us win games for sure,” Cumberbatch said.
Freshmen have helped out when stepping up and developing the chemistry of this Marlins team. “I think in general, freshmen have played a very huge role, Jenna Waters has played huge offensively. She is very confident and a powerful swinger. I don’t think we’ve seen that caliber a lot just within ODAC in general,” senior Sydney Collins said. Cumberbatch has contributed massively to developing these young athletes on the team. “She’s thrown their class aside completely, not caring about how new they are to the program. She pushes us to elevate our skill level. And I think that’s something that makes us successful as a team. Every practice before each game, we know the tendencies of our opponents because she studies film and lets us know. She’s really training us and has been pushing us to be better players and teammates,” Collins said.
The Marlin spirit is still apparent on the team as they had a record of an 11-game win streak earlier this season. The girls feel Cumberbatch’s Marlin spirit every game and it has been instrumental this season. “I have a lot of respect for her. She is just amazing. She just pushes us, she studies and knows the game so well and prepares us for each individual game,” junior Haley Sutton said.
Sutton has been a key contributor to this Marlin’s team success, from game to game she leads the team in assists. “As one of the upperclassmen on the team, she is looked up to as a star and key player in the game. Haley Sutton, our starting setter, has been great for the last couple of years. She’s just consistent, a good leader, and brings a lot of energy to the floor. I think she’s even leading the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) in assists, which is huge for us,” Cumberbatch said.
Sutton also praised her team for consistently giving her marvelous passes and kills to help them win. “I can’t get an assist without a pass and without a kill, so I have a ton of respect for my hitters because that statistic doesn’t happen unless they get a kill. So I’m going to always continue to put the best ball up for them to be able to have the best advantage to get a kill. As long as I’m doing that, I think that will continue to happen and I’m really grateful for that,” Sutton said.
Coach Cumberbatch also gave praise to the players playing consistently. “Morgan Ludovici is just having a great season all around. I mean, she leads us offensively most games and is definitely our most consistent serve receive passer,” Cumberbatch said. “Abby Mahoney has definitely stepped up within the last couple of weeks and is just hitting at a great percentage,” Cumberbatch said.
Cumberbatch also expressed her long-term goals for the team and was adamant about continuing their winning culture and successful program at VWU. “Our goal will be to start consistently winning conference championships and to work towards a regional championship. We would love to get into the second or third round of the NCAA. I think that we’ve proven that we can compete with those teams. So now it’s time to make that a reality and make that jump,” Cumberbatch said. Cumberbatch was adamant about each player and what role they played for this team. “Katie Yeager is just ruthless as far as her work ethic. Alexis Davies-Hackenburg is actually pretty new to the program but has had a huge impact. Katie Costin even started as a freshman here, so they have had a lot to do with the success over the years here and it’s exciting to see them be able to have such a good senior year. They’re all impacting the program still and it’s been fun to watch. Watching us add freshmen has been really exciting as well,” Cumberbatch said.
After their last ODAC regular season game, the Marlins are sitting in third place after their loss to their rivals the Yellow Jackets of Randolph-Macon College 3-0. Their next competition will be against the Captains of Christopher Newport University and the Saints of Marymount University on Oct. 29 at 3:00 p.m.
By: Joshua Heller