After its third straight sub-.500 season, Elon University’s volleyball team is hoping to use its opening weekend momentum as a springboard to more success. The Phoenix is now 1-1, and optimistic about the road ahead.
Last year, the Phoenix finished with a 7-23 overall record, coupled with a 3-13 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference record. Elon ranked near the bottom of the conference in many categories.
But there’s a sense of excitement this year as the Phoenix returns 12 players from last season, including four of its five leaders in kills and kills per set. Sophomore Kam Terry was a force during Elon’s opening weekend, tallying 31 total kills in a win over Campbell University and a loss to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Head coach Mary Tendler, heading into her 14th season at Elon, said this offseason was devoted to improving both on and off the court for her players.
Redshirt junior setter Sydel Curry said the spring was the best this team has had since she’s been at Elon because “you can just see how much [the team] improved in the weight room and in the court.” Tendler is also confident for the 2016 season because this will be Elon’s third season in the CAA, granting them familiarity with most of the teams they’ll face.
“I feel like in our third season in the CAA, we’ll be a lot better, and we’re building rivalries with a lot of other teams,” Tendler said. “I think it’s definitely helpful that we’re more of a CAA team.”
While the team collectively continues to conform to its relatively new conference, senior outside hitter Ebony Scott is progressively looking to assimilate to Elon as a whole. The Powhatan, Virginia, native transferred from Michigan State University last year and contributed for the Phoenix immediately, playing in all 30 matches.
The Spartans annually see great success on the volleyball court, so Scott is hopeful she can help build a winning culture for Elon this year. Even with the rapid shift from a power conference school to a much smaller one, Tendler said Scott adjusted well and is prepared for her “Super Senior Year,” which Scott echoed.
“It was definitely strange from going from a big school to such a small, close-knit family, but it’s been a good transition,” Scott said. “I actually really like the smaller school — everything is just so more personal here, and I love it. The sport is still the same, obviously, but the energy is really different.”
Another aspect that is vastly different for the Phoenix this season is being spearheaded by veterans. Elon will take the court this year with four seniors, lead by senior outside hitter Kayla Agae and school-senior but eligibility-junior Curry as team captains.
Tendler said Agae and Curry complemented each other extremely well, and also expects senior middle blocker Ally Karle to be a vocal presence as well. Karle said because of all the work her and her team exhausted in the offseason, she hopes to end her collegiate athletic career on a high note.
“I think toward the end of the season, I’ll get more emotional. But, as of right now, I’m just really, really excited,” Karle said. “I just want to play every game the best I can and leave everything on the court, because I know I only have a handful left.”
Elon also brings back defensive specialist Morgan Maner, who’s tied for the program record for aces in a Division I match (8).