By: Collin Frazier
UF Volleyball off to an impressive 6-1 start
With COVID-19 postponing all contact sports in the fall, many sports teams had to halt their season in order to stay safe. Fortunately, as coronavirus vaccines are being distributed across the country, the sports season for the fall is finally kicking off. One team that has started its season hot is the Findlay Volleyball team. With an impressive 6-1 start, head coach Wick Colchagoff is happy how the season has started compared to the 2019 season.
“The whole team is very excited about our season so far,” said Colchagoff via email. “[The] 2019 season was very disappointing and the returners off that team have made it a point of emphasis to get off to a great start.”
With the fall season postponed, the players were feeling the drag of the consistent practices. But the exhaustion was worth the payoff, junior Emily Annesser shared over email.
“I think the coaching staff as well as us girls are very excited to have come out with a 6-1 start,” said Annesser. “We had spent our entire fall season (as an off season), practicing without scrimmaging anyone other than ourselves, and that routine was mentally exhausting. So to finally be able to compete against other teams that play differently than us has been a lot fun.”
These long scrimmages were part of the process of this uncontrollable last fall, but the Lady Oilers were able to control one aspect of last season: their attitude.
“We focused on what we could control,” Colchagoff explained. “We could not control whether the season was played or not but we could control our reaction to it. We did a variety of types of practices to keep things fresh and interesting to the athletes while improving the team.”
The combination of many practices and a bright attitude has paid off well, as the Lady Oilers are currently 6-1 this season, Colchagoff explained.
“This team has practice for over a year without competing. They have worked very hard during that time to improve their skills and athletic ability,” he said.
“I think our successful start this season is in part due to the positive mindset we have as a team and share with the coaching staff, as well as the energy and chemistry us girls share on the court,” Annesser added. “We have both young freshman and experienced seniors playing, and I think that combination helps to balance out how we play very well. We rely on the experienced girls to be the levelheaded and make smart decisions on the court while the younger ones provide that strong energy and excitement.”
Another big component to this team is both their positive team chemistry and their cohesiveness.
“This year’s team has some of the best team chemistry we have had in the last few years,” Colchagoff proclaimed. “The seniors have really stepped up to lead and keep the team focused. They have made everyone feel part of the team.”
“I believe the team chemistry is strong and constantly evolving in a positive way,” Annesser added. “Each and every one of us as players has a unique skill set to offer and we make it work cohesively as one on the court. We have a very deep roster which allows for numerous girls to come into the game at any time and mesh consistently with the other 5 girls on the court which I find very impressive.”
“We are much stronger mentally as a team which sets us up in a great position to come back from deficits or losing a set. Our team as a whole is a great group of dedicated and hardworking girls on and off the court and I think it shows,” she said.
Even with this impressive start, there is always room for improvement. Annesser hopes the team can keep up the energy during the matches.
“One area of improvement is the energy level at which we play,” Annesser explained. “Our energy level fluctuates very easily, and a key to winning sets for us as a team is being able to maintain a high level of energy and focus throughout the match.”
“Volleyball is just as much a mental game as it is a physical game, so recognizing that aspect and emphasizing energy and intensity is important. Another improvement would be focusing on playing smarter and not necessarily harder,” she added. “We have a very talented and athletic group of girls this year, if we can refine our volleyball IQ and focus on being smart with the ball that will be a key advantage to continuing a successful season.”
Of course, COVID-19 is not going anywhere, and Colchagoff says Lady Oilers will continue to keep themselves and everyone around safe.
“We follow all the protocols set forth by the University and county health department. The coaching staff encourages the athletes to stay within our “team bubble” while not on the court.”
“I am very appreciative of the Athletic Department leadership and their commitment to have a season so the athletes can compete,” Colchagoff said.
The Lady Oilers will continue their unique season Feb. 19 against Hillsdale at 7 p.m.
Photo features Emily Annesser and the Lady Oilers volleyball team against Trevecca Nazarene. Courtesy of UF Athletics.