By Jeanna Teddick
This article was originally published in Issue 1, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (September 9, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
The DeSales volleyball team seems to be taking the word “spike” to heart entering the 2015 season, employing a hard-driven, attack-prone mindset against opponents. And yes, that means even with traditional rivals Eastern University.
“Go hard or go home” is the mantra right now for the team. They were ranked second in the Freedom Conference preseason poll; however, they’ve been keeping their eyes peeled on number one-ranked Eastern, who was nationally ranked as twelfth in preseason.
“The biggest strategy we’ve learned when competing against Eastern is to stay focused and play as if it were against any other team,” Coach Michele Zabinski says.
Remaining cool in the moment is an important factor, she continued, but the team from knowing they have an abundance of prepping and training to get to that point.
Key players including Lisa Wallitsch and Logan Weiziolowski, Zabinski explains, are going to be heavily depended on to lead the team. With only two returning starters, “a huge piece of our puzzle has graduated,” Zabinski says; however, the squad prepared themselves for this inevitable loss last spring. Six new freshmen have since been added to the roster.
A couple of these newcomers are players to look out for this season. In a 3-0 win against Moravian College on Sept. 1, freshman Gabby Savate and Natalie Gray had the opportunity to debut the talents and skills they could lend the team this season. With Savate being the number one defensive recruit, Zabinski says she sees her “starting to explode as a huge leader.”
Right alongside Savate is Gray, also a defensive player. Zabinski says she has “taken off right where senior Amanda [Wallitsch] left off last year.”
The “young team” factor has actually worked to the their advantage, Zabinski says, because of the ladies’ willingness to undertake new strategies, such as changing their defense, and eagerness to prove themselves as respected members of the squad.
Zabinski also has hope and faith in her team due to the remarkable chemistry exhibited amongst all the players.
“It doesn’t matter if I had the six most talented players on the court. If there was no chemistry, the skills would go to waste,” Zabinski says.
To improve this crucial aspect necessary for a victorious team, she says that they place emphasis on team bonding on the court, as well as activities off the court, which have formed the union even faster.
Having 10 years of coaching DeSales women’s volleyball under her belt, Zabinski is ready to make her 11th year the best one yet. The dynamic of the team this season is what distinguishes it from any other season. Zabinski is elated by how well the team has meshed together to gel and develop as a whole.
Her decade of coaching at DeSales has not only laid the foundation for her expertise, but has allowed for other things “just as important,” she says. Gaining a valuable college volleyball experience is only one of the things on Zabinski’s goal list for her student-athletes; just as important is having the opportunity to mentor these girls in both academic and life choices.
With six new players replacing some key graduated players to form a team Zabinski openly calls “young,” the players recognize they need to step up their game if they plan to stay competitive for the conference title. With zero intentions of coming up short, the girls look willing to do anything it takes to be victorious at the conference championships this year.
The team’s 2015 schedule can be found here.