Stetson Volleyball head coach Tim Loesch described his team’s preseason workouts as grueling, both on the court and in the weight room, but he has seen the benefits of those workouts in the team’s practices.
“I think we are ahead of where have been in the past years, both fitness-wise and skill-wise,” Loesch said. “I can't wait to see them play. It's going to be a great year as long as we keep working hard like we have been.”
Senior co-captains Ellen Hawks and Kaley Melville have experienced many preseason camps during their Hatter careers, but each felt this year's efforts have reached a new level.
“This preseason we have had some of the best practices since I have been at Stetson,” Hawks said. “The fitness tests have been really intense, really hard, but all of the girls have worked really hard to get through that and to get better. Each practice gets more intense, more competitive and more aggressive. Each girl keeps pushing to get better, and we have seen crazy, awesome results.”
As the sole seniors on the 2013 squad, Hawks and Melville have worked throughout the summer to lay the groundwork for the upcoming season. They made improvements to the locker room, kept in close communication with their teammates, and made sure the incoming freshmen felt valued and a part of the team.
They even put a lot of thought into developing an appropriate team motto.
“We decided that ‘ONE’ is the best term for us because it's ‘ONE’ team, ‘ONE’ love, and ‘ONE’ game,” Melville said. “But more importantly, ‘ONE’ just stands for all of the girls behind me coming together and standing as one. We are very excited to hold on to that theme.”
“We are unified in everything that we do, both on and off the court,” Hawks added. “Every day in practice we come in and we work really hard. We create an atmosphere of being confident, being competitive, giving it everything you got, and being there to support your teammates.”
Coach Loesch said Hawks and Melville have really stepped up as leaders and they have not only helped foster a strong team chemistry but they have also demonstrated a strong work ethic.
“The seniors have made it a lot of fun but they have also made it tough,” Loesch said. “They have set the standard high for all the incoming girls, and everyone has followed their lead. Everyone has bought into what we are trying to do. They have really taken the other girls under their wing and shown them what they need to do to be successful and help them get through a tough preseason.”
The Hatters will rely on their seniors to continue to produce as they have throughout their careers. Melville has led the team in kills in each of her first three seasons, and ranks 10th in school history with 865 career kills. Hawks, meanwhile, is Stetson’s all-time leading blocker in the rally scoring era. She has collected 279 blocks over her three seasons, including a school-record 115 last year.
They will be joined by a talented group of underclassmen, including a freshmen class that combined for four high school volleyball state championships and two club volleyball national championships.
“I am really excited about our freshmen class,” Loesch said. “They fit in well with the girls, they have very outgoing personalities and they are very friendly but they are also very good players. They are going to be in the mix this year, they are going to contribute, and they've been battling with upperclassmen during our scrimmages, and they are right there. So we have a lot of depth this year which we didn't really have in the past.”
As the Hatters prepare for their season opening tournament at the University of Wyoming this weekend, the adrenaline is starting to flow and emotions are revving up.
“I am so excited to get started," Melville said. "I am headed back to the Midwest, so that is going to be fun for me. Wyoming is closer to my home. It is also going to be nice to play in that type of atmosphere. It's going to be a great season."
Check back to GoHatters.com on Thursday for a weekend preview and information on following the Stetson Volleyball team all season long.