Volleyball’s 2010 title defense: So far, so good

| Sports Reporter

The Washington University volleyball team was under a lot of pressure entering its 2010 season. Not only were the Bears trying to defend a national championship, but they also had to overcome the losses of two star graduates, Erin Albers and Laura Brazeal. If that wasn’t enough, two days before workouts started, the team learned that junior defensive specialist Tricia Brandt would miss the season because of injuries.

Despite all these pressures, the team has picked up right where it left off last year, going undefeated at 14-0 so far and maintaining the top spot in the American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll. The Red and Green show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Led by senior captains Marya Kaminski and Jennifer Varriano, the team has experienced nothing but success since its first match, already defeating several top-ranked schools, including No. 13 St. Olaf College, No. 4 Wittenberg University and arguably the team’s biggest rival in No. 2 Juniata College.

“We have an extremely talented and motivated team this year,” junior Kristen Thomas said. “There is intense competition for positions, and I think this has pushed all of us to continuously improve and play our best every day.”

In particular, junior Lauren Budde has been opening eyes once again. Following her performance in last year’s NCAA tournament, which earned her the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, she leads the team so far in kills and blocks and is second in digs. Budde has made it clear that though winning another title is a goal, the team still has much to accomplish beforehand.

“Obviously, we want to repeat as national champions,” she said, “[But] our goals are simply to improve everyday, whether it be in a match or in practice…We need to focus on every single point during a match, because every point matters.”

In addition to individual contributions, one factor that has allowed the team to have so much success so far is the freshman class. In particular, freshmen Meghan Byrne, Tanya Marvi, Emily Tulloch and Tessa Blood have all been having terrific rookie seasons.

“[They] have been doing great for us, but all of them are doing really well, providing lots of competition, which pushes everyone to become better,” sophomore Kelly Pang said.

Another factor that many of the players have attributed to their success is the team’s chemistry, both on and off the court. “We have formed a special bond with one another and I think that we really feel like our own sort of family here, which is a huge component of our great team chemistry,” Thomas said.

While the team still has a long journey ahead to defend its national title, it seems the players are looking forward to the challenging competition that will come later in the season, particularly Emory University, which defeated the Bears in last year’s University Athletic Association Championship and is currently ranked third in the nation.

But no matter what happens at the end of the season, the players’ mentality of constant improvement seems to assure that the volleyball team will approach every match with as much focus and intensity as they have all season long.

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