By Jeana Teddick
The DeSales Bulldogs will take on Eastern University in the MAC Freedom Conference Championship at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7.
This article was originally published in Issue 5, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 5, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
After second seed in the Freedom Conference, the DeSales women’s volleyball team is prepared for a potential meeting with rival Eastern University in the playoffs’ championship match.
“We’re definitely up to the challenge,” senior Kait Anderson said. “We’re sick of being second place.”
The Bulldogs defeated no. 3 seed Fairleigh Dickinson- Florham on Nov. 4, in five sets. They face top-seeded Eastern in the championship on Saturday, Nov. 7. Eastern has knocked DeSales out of the conference tournament every year since 2008, six of those seven defeats coming in the final match.
After defeating Misercorida on Oct. 20 in three victorious sets with scores of 25-11, 25-17 and 26-20, the DeSales girls walked off the court beaming with smiles and still buzzing with energy. It was head coach Michele Zabinski’s 200th career win that night, adding to the joy.
During the game, the girls were on fire. Junior Lisa Wallitsch and Anderson hit the ball in precise unison. Junior Jessica Swanson had several spikes, while freshmen Natalie Gray and Gabby Savite’ were playing great as well. Gray was all over the court throughout the game, just as she has been all season, leading the Bulldogs with an impressive 445 digs thus far. She was named the ECAC Division III South Region Libero of the Week.
Although the team had expected to win over Misercordia that night, junior Jessica Swanson was still excited to have another win under the team’s belt.
“We try not to go into games expecting to win,” she said. “Instead, we go into one game at a time and play our hearts out. We trust each other a lot.”
It is clear why the team has been successful thus far: The girls bond together so perfectly on the court, making communication smooth among one another. Distinct from the opposing team, the DeSales girls exhibit superb skills via amazing teamwork. That team chemistry is vital, Zabinski says.
“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,” said Zabinski.
The team chemistry is important, but often times it’s built away from the gym.
“We’re a tight-knit family,” Anderson said. “We do a lot together. We eat together and we spend a lot of time together off the court.”
Back in the beginning of the season, Zabinski openly referred to the team as “young,” stacked with a lot of freshmen. She knew that in order to have a successful season, the girls would have to exhibit a willingness to try new strategies and persevere through hard work. However, Zabinski said the most important thing “was staying focused and remembering the vitality of the team aspect.”
Now that the regular season has drawn to a close and the women will enter the Freedom Conference post- season tournament, it is clear that skillful coaching from Zabinski and hard work from the girls has paid off.