Damian Elder, and the Mercer women’s volleyball team is slated to begin one of the most anticipated seasons in recent years. In Elder’s first year at the helm of the volleyball team, much is expected of what is supposed to be one of the best teams in recent times to grace the court for the Bears.
With new leadership, a competitive schedule, and some talented players, the team is looking to improve upon past failings and establish themselves as one of the premier volleyball teams at the collegiate level.
Jamie Duffy, senior captain, commented on how the team adjusted to Elder.
“We all respect and admire Coach Damian. He has brought us together to be a strong, hard working team. We feel very blessed to have such a dedicated and hard working staff. They hold themselves to the same standards they expect to see from us,” said Duffy.
Elder and his assistant coaching staff often participate in team workouts, runs and practices, showing the girls that if they can do it, they have no excuse not to complete the task as well. This particular coaching style allows the team to push themselves as they also have outside competition outside of themselves.
Losing four starters from last year’s squad may seem daunting for some teams, but Elder looks to replace some of last year’s stars with the current players that are putting in hard work on the floor during their preseason.
“Each year it is an adjustment to try and fill the shoes of graduated teammates. Yet, that is always one of the challenges to being an athlete. No matter who is next to you on the court, it is your responsibility to play hard and push each other to be the best. This way, upperclassmen can pass down a cohesive experience to newcomers,” Duffy added.
The Bears are returning a wealth of talent as 12 players from last year’s squad return this year.
Leading the way for the Bears are Senior Middle Blockers Charlayna Braxton and Jennifer Katona. Braxton and Katona combined for an impressive 383 kills last season, splitting time at the Middle Blocker position. Both are expected to help lead a poised bears attack.
Returning at the setter position is Senior Monica Sanchez who was able to dish out an impressive 504 assists in her first year for on the court for Mercer. Sanchez is expected to help lead the Bears attack this year.
Junior Defensive Specialist Emily Rochefort looks to take over the heralded Libero position. The former Libero, Charlotte Harris, was able to garner Atlantic Sun recognition winning Libero of the Year her junior year. Rochefort looks to follow in the footsteps of Harris, and garner the coveted Libero of the Year award and possibly break the record for digs in a single season.
In preparation for the upcoming season, the women’s volleyball team held an Orange and Black scrimmage in order to bolster support from fans across campus, and showcase what they’ve been working on during the off-season.
With a pair of celebrity coaches on the court, the teams were able to produce an exciting match. Bob Hoffmann, the current head coach of the men’s basketball team, and Joel Weems, the athletic director for compliance, manned the sidelines in order to produce a winning product. Bob Hoffmann proved he was king of the basketball court and volleyball court as his team was able to get the victory.
“It was a great turnout. The girls did a great job of advertising it. We probably had 200 people, and we needed it so that we could play in front of people, see what it was like to get nerves out,” said Damian Elder.
“We needed [the fans] to see that were putting a new product out on the floor for Mercer,” Elder added.
The women’s volleyball team ventures to Charleston, South Carolina to take on Furman University, Canisius College and Charleston Southern on Aug. 31.