The Eastern Kentucky University women’s volleyball team is fighting to return to the ASUN conference tournament.
During preseason and practices, the team’s strengths have started to emerge. Johnna Bazzani, head coach, said the team is stronger and more physical.
“We are lasting practices and working hard to the point of when we’re tired we’re finishing strong,” said Bazzani. “And the drive that we’re giving, 110 percent at the very last point.”
According to Bazzani, the team roster has reached 17 girls this season, with four being freshmen and one a transfer from Indiana State University.
“Our transfer setter, Chloe Mason, she’s going to have to make a direct impact right away. Luckily with having that collegiate experience she comes in and brings that same level of play,” said Bazzani.
Bazzani also said that preseason offered good practice for freshman members of the team, allowing them to experience the high tempo and fast pace that is collegiate level volleyball.
Anna Purichia, a sophomore outside hitter, said that she has seen improvement in new members of her team as they come out of their comfort zone.
“I can tell when they first got here over the summer, they had a little bit of an adjustment period… they were kind of timid and nervous,” said Purichia. “They’ve lightened up so much. They are really making some good plays out there and stepping up to the role of being on a college team, especially at the Division I level.”
Purichia said she has seen returning members stepping into leadership roles they didn’t have last season. Instead of one upperclassman doing everything, it’s a group effort from the entire team, which is exciting for team chemistry.
“I’ve seen them go as hard as they can every single day at practice even when we’re tired, and preseason was really, really hard, but we pushed through,” said Purichia. “It’s a lot easier to go through yourself when you have other people pushing you.”
Last season, the volleyball team finished 7-9 in the ASUN conference and made it into the ASUN conference tournament.
Bazzani said that even though the girls played well in the conference games, the team needs to attack non-conference games with the same energy.
“No one likes to lose,” said Bazzani. “I think that’s why we were so successful in conference because we just wasted four weeks just trying to figure it out.”
Bazzani said the goal this season is to make the conference tournament again, but because they’ve made the conference once, that has become the standard.
Purichia has been nominated for the ASUN Preseason Player of the Year, which is voted on by fans.
“I was honestly very shocked because that’s such a big thing to be nominated for, especially coming in as a sophomore,” said Purichia. “I can’t wait to put my name out there, and put our team on the map, and I feel like now we’re starting to get more comfortable in this new conference and really making a name for ourselves.”
According to Bazzani, this is the first season in her four years coaching that the team is made up of all her recruits.
“I’m just excited for the pride that the team has, the work ethic that they have, the energy is fun to watch,” said Bazzani. “I don’t think that they have pressure to be a certain way or expectations to win, that’s what they need to do. I’m excited to see how our journey goes and where it takes us.”
The Colonels’ first game was Friday, Aug. 26 against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis at McBrayer Arena.