Friday, November 5, 2010

Can't believe it's over!

Every year, we spend months preparing for the season. There are untold hours put into recruiting, budgeting, scheduling, evaluating, and planning so that Berry Volleyball can be at its best from August - October/November. This year was no different in that regard. We recruited four tremendous additions to the team, put together a schedule that was often grueling and almost always challenging, and found a way to take trips as far away as New York and Clearwater. Fortunately, this group of young ladies responded by giving their all the vast majority of the time. Their efforts resulted in a 22-11 season record with an incredible 10-1 home record, a great win over our rival Shorter College on our home floor, and a thrilling come from behind five set victory over Maryville in the last match of the season. For a team who is making the sacrifice of no post season and no individual season awards due to our transition to NCAA, their accomplishments are quite remarkable. This is a group of unselfish players who play for the love of the sport and, more importantly, the love of their teammates. Every coach should be so fortunate!

Now that the season has ended, the process starts over again. The recruiting trips, scheduling phone calls, number crunching, and planning begin anew. Our coaching staff is excited to work towards making next year even better and look forward to sharing the journey along the way!

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Senior Night Video

If you were not able to join us for senior night, here is the video highlighting our lone senior Erin Godwin. Enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Thrill of Victory

Few things can get your blood pumping like a college rivalry game. Whether you are a player, coach, or fan, there is just something unique about a rivalry game. The Berry-Shorter volleyball rivalry is alive and well despite our move to NCAA Division III and out of the SSAC. This past Wednesday, we had the opportunity to play this game in front of our home crowd.

We had an enthusiastic home crowd, and our team gave them their money's worth as we defeated Shorter in four sets. As a coach, it was extremely rewarding to see their hard work rewarded with the victory. They improved in each of the areas we had specifically addressed in practice last week, and they played with composure, focus, and enthusiasm. Here are a few highlights from the match...Enjoy!

Up next...senior night versus Brenau and our final tournament at Emory where we will meet four quality opponents and hopefully put the capstone on a great season!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


One of the great things about college athletics is the opportunity that our team has to travel and experience interesting things together. For our fall break this year, we planned a trip to Florida to play in a single match and a tournament. In addition, we had the opportunity to do some community service AND spend some time at the beach. It really can't get much better than that, can it?

So, we headed out late Wednesday after practice and drove halfway to our final destination of the Tampa/Clearwater area. The first half of Thursday was spent traveling the rest of the way. Then we had a chance to eat lunch at La Tropicana Cafe in Ybor City to experience some authentic Cuban food and spent a few hours getting over the travel by playing some putt putt golf. The competition was fierce, but a good time was had by all. That evening took us to a match at Florida College. It was quite obvious how the Falcons won the USCAA National Championship last year as they attacked relentlessly and kept us out of system most of the night. By the third set, we finally looked like we had showed up to play, but it was too little too late.

After we finished playing, we headed to Indian Rocks Beach where we would spend our next few days while we were competing. It was more cost efficient to get a couple of condos than to stay in a hotel (especially when we factored in the ability to cook our own meals - a special thank you to Mrs. Quinn for doing all of the food prep during our tournament days!), so we had the great fortune of finding a great deal right on the beach. However, we would not have time to enjoy it for the next two days, as we would play five matches in two days making six total in a three day span of Thursday to Saturday.

After a three set victory over Carlow College on Friday morning, we faced a very strong Clearwater Christian College (having won nine NCCAA national championships since 1995 and the last five out of six) on their home floor. The match turned out to be a great one. We eventually fell in five sets, but there were great plays made on both sides and emotions ran high. Perhaps the toughest part was that we had to turn right around and play a third match against Trinity College of Florida. Despite exhaustion (both mental and physical), we managed to find our discipline and focus and beat Trinity in four sets.

Saturday brought even bigger challenges as we would face Point Park and St. Thomas with what felt like very little time to recover from the two previous days. I was proud of our team for leaving it all on the floor, but in the end we succumbed to both teams in four sets. While we did not walk away with the wins that we wanted, we did walk away having been tested and pushed to our limits which I know will pay dividends down the stretch.

Saturday evening and Sunday gave us much needed time to rest and enjoy family who had come to support us. We had a great cookout on Saturday night by the beach as we watched the beautiful sunset, and celebrated Claressa's birthday with a cake that her parents brought to share.

In keeping with Berry's motto of "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister," we had prearranged to spend Monday morning doing some community service in the area. We spent our time at Thurgood Marshall Middle School doing a volleyball/teambuilding/mentoring session with a group called Girlfriends which aims to promote self esteem, education, and confidence in at risk girls. I am not sure who had more fun, us or the middle school girls! We are continuing that connection by establishing pen pal relationships with these girls, and I am so excited to see how our team can have a positive impact from afar.

Monday afternoon was spent playing doubles on the sand with no absence of competitive spirit! Kiersten and Stephanie can certainly claim to be Queens of the Beach for this trip as they consistently defeated all challengers. It was a great way to finish a weekend of good competition, quality team time, and enjoying the beautiful weather and the beach.

Here are a few of the moments Kiersten captured on the trip...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mountain Day!

Our week started out with a road trip to northeast Georgia for a rematch against Piedmont College. It was a bit of a long trip for a weekday game, but we managed to come home with the victory in 4 sets. I will not say that we played our best volleyball, but our team definitely showed its ability to be resilient and win points when it mattered.

The rest of the week was spent getting papers and midterms done and then preparing for a big home match against Maryville and enjoying Mountain Day! For those of you who have not experienced Mountain Day, it is Berry College's version of homecoming. There are nonstop activities, alumni galore, and lots of sporting events to show your Viking pride. As a coach, there is always the concern that your athletes will be overtired and stretched too thin to adequately prepare for the match. However, this edition of Berry Volleyball showed that they were more than ready to play in front of their home crowd again. They beat a well coached Maryville team in four sets with four different players finishing with double digit kills. Perhaps the most satisfying part of the night was coming from an 18-22 deficit in the fourth set to tie it at 23-23 and then go on to win 25-23. Our fans certainly got their money's worth that night!

Here are a few pictures from the Mountain Day activities (including the march).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ups and Downs

I have never seen a team go through an entire season without any bumps in the road. Sometimes, there are injuries. Sometimes, there are interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes, there are outside distractions. Sometimes, there is fatigue. Sometimes, there is lack of heart or lack of discipline.

This past week was a great learning experience for Berry Volleyball. This group of young women have already overcome their share of injuries. They came together as a new team with four of ten members being new to Berry with very little if any interpersonal conflict. However, this past week we saw the effect of fatigue and outside distractions, and at times a lack of discipline. In our match against our cross town rival, Shorter, we went an entire match without finding our rhythm. While we all left the gym frustrated and disappointed in our efforts, I was again impressed with this group's ability to regroup and respond. Back on the court the next night, they came out firing on all cylinders against a solid Southern Wesleyan team and continued our trend of playing very well at home. To me, that says so much about this group and these individuals. They learn from their mistakes and are willing to work hard to ensure that they do not repeat them. I do not question this team's heart. I have no doubt that they will meet the goals that they set for themselves this year. My challenge is to do my part in helping them.

Speaking of working hard, one of our players made an incredible impression on me on Thursday night after our home match. After saying goodbye to a recruit and retreating to the office to finish our day, it was brought to mine and Sean's attention that one of our players was still in the gym (a good hour after we had cleared the gym and everyone had left). When I looked out my office window to see if anything was wrong, what I found made me grin from ear to ear. One of our freshman had changed into workout clothes, set out targets, and was diligently working on footwork drills. We promptly dropped what we were doing and went down to help her. For the next 45 minutes or so, the three of us worked on footwork and transition with no net and no balls. I was barefoot as my dress shoes were not real conducive to demonstrating transition, and she was intent on getting better. She inspired her coaches that night, and I know she will do great things throughout her career at Berry and beyond. I am blessed to work with these types of players every day. I have seen many of them do something similar during their time at Berry. All ten players on our team push me to be a better coach, mentor, and person on a daily basis. I only hope I do the same in return.

After watching Mia Hamm alone on the practice field when she did not know anyone was watching, Anson Dorrance (UNC Women's Soccer coach) said, "The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, and at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching." Berry Volleyball is building something great, because these young women consistently meet this description of a champion.

Go Vikings!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New York, New York

Taking a stroll on Kean's campus

Another week and another tournament victory! This time it was on the road after two flights and little sleep! I could not have been prouder of our team's composure and aggressive style of play this past weekend. They overcame travel, sleep deprivation, and weary bodies to beat four opponents and claim the tournament title. Erin earned All Tournament honors (this time as MVP) for the third straight week as well.

One of several trips around town in the van!

Once the tournament was complete, it was time to do some sightseeing. After heading back to the hotel to shower and change, we headed into New York City! After taking a NJ transit train from Newark and a subway ride from Penn Station, we arrived in Times Square. We ate at John's Pizzeria directly across from the Majestic Theater and had incredible authentic New York style pizza. After dinner, we hit Coldstone and then watched an impressive production of Mary Poppins (several players had never seen the movie, and many of us had never been to a Broadway show!). The New Amsterdam Theater was beautiful in itself, and the production was excellent!

In New York!

Waiting for Mary Poppins to start.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, it was close to midnight and we were one tired group. However, in an attempt to make the most of our time in New York, we would be off again at 7:30 the next morning in order to take a boat tour of Manhattan. Another train ride, subway ride, and a bit of a hike later and we were boarding the Circle Line boat to tour the city highlights. We saw all of the major landmarks including an up close view of the Statue of Liberty and some incredible views of the New York skyline. As if that was enough, we also saw Stacy London (from What Not to Wear) standing on a doorstep on our way back to the subway! Then it was time to head for the airport and begin our long trip home! We finally made it back onto Berry soil around 2:30am on Monday. It was a long and tiring trip, but it will definitely be one that none of us will soon forget.

About to embark on the boat tour!

View of the skyline with the Statue of Liberty visible below the bridge.

Bethany and Megan check out their pictures of the Statue of Liberty

Next up...Berry-Shorter rivalry continues tonight at Shorter! Go Vikings!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Week 2 (6-0)

After an exhausting first week that pushed us to our physical limits, we faced a week that seemed even more daunting. In a team meeting at the beginning of the week, the coaching staff challenged the team to have a "can do" attitude about the challenges that were ahead. In addition, we looked for ways to allow their bodies to bounce back from the previous week's demands. So, we started the week with a low impact practice that included learning from watching video of our first weekend and a recovery swim workout. That seemed to do the trick as we travelled to Brenau on Tuesday and rode away with a win. Another day off on Wednesday and a short practice on Thursday helped with the recovery process as we prepared for a marathon of a weekend!

On Friday afternoon, we played LaGrange College at 3:00 followed by Methodist University (who came into the tournament with an undefeated record) at 7:00. With solid contributions from the entire team, we won both matches without dropping a set. The crowd for the 7:00 match was one of the most involved crowds we have had at the Cage as they chanted and cheered our team on to victory.

However, there was little rest for the weary, as we would face Oglethorpe at 11:00 on Saturday morning. A three set win over Oglethorpe was rewarded by a small break before our 1:00 match against Covenant College. Once again, our young team showed their poise and composure as they handed Covenant a loss in three straight sets. While four matches in two days is typically the limit, we were not done this time. We still had to face the toughest opponent of the weekend in Mississippi College. At 5:00, the two teams who had won all of their tournament matches up to that point faced off for what turned out to be the Berry Invitational championship match.

With another solid crowd gathered (including a couple of loyal fans who made signs and created some original cheers that made us all laugh on multiple occasions), our Vikings stepped up to the challenge one more time to defeat a very good Mississippi College in three sets.

As a coach, there are few things that make you happier than to have the pleasure of watching your team leave it all on the floor and be rewarded for their efforts. This group of young women did that this weekend. Their willingness to be coachable combined with their passion for the game and for excellence certainly make our jobs a lot of fun!

This coming week brings a road trip that I know we will all remember for a lifetime. We get to play four worthy opponents at the Kean Invitational, AND we get to do some sightseeing in the Big Apple. Stay tuned for what I know will be some great stories and pictures!

Go Vikings!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Week 1 of the season

Wow! What a whirlwind start to the season! We opened at home against Emory on September 1. As expected, Emory was an extremely worthy opponent, and our fans were treated to some great volleyball! Although we came up just short in each of the three sets, it was obvious that this young team was up to the challenge of playing the number three ranked team in the country, and that was after what I hope will end up being the saddest part of our season. During hitting warm ups only minutes before game time, one of our players, Jenn Tinnell, suffered what turned out to be a season ending injury. So, the fact that the team overcame their emotion over seeing their teammate in pain and several people being put in positions that we had not practiced says a lot about the resilience of this group. It is still not easy on any of us to have Jenn on the sidelines, but she has been working diligently at rehab and is by far our biggest fan right now! Here are a few pictures from the match.

This team has a lot of fun together!

Sarah with one of her 7 kills

Kristin, Erin, and Claire preparing to receive serve

While the Emory match could have been a full week in itself, that was only the beginning. We hit the road the next night to play at Covenant College. After a winding drive up to Lookout Mountain (if you want entertaining stories, ask Claressa's grandparents about their drive in their motorhome or Stephanie's mom about the curvy trip to Wendy's), we brought home the victory in four sets. Back to the gym for one day of practice, and we were on the road again!

On Saturday and Sunday, we played four more matches (Piedmont, Birmingham Southern, Rhodes, and Sewanee)! Six matches in one week is definitely not the norm, and our bodies felt it by the end. We ended up beating Piedmont and Sewanee and losing to Birmingham Southern and Rhodes. Rest for the weary was warranted, but we only had a day before we would hit the road again to face Brenau.

The match against Brenau turned out to be a thrilling five set victory with great passing and great offensive production from all of our hitters. It made for a late night getting home, but we were all happy to bring home the "W"!

In addition to all of the great volleyball, we were fortunate to see a number of family members at our matches this weekend including at least three players getting surprised by their parents' efforts to make it to matches. We are so fortunate to have such great support by so many!

Now, we get to play at "home sweet home" again this weekend with five matches in our beautiful Cage Center! We would love to see you all there!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alumni Game!

The Alumni Team

The alumni game lived up to all of the hype, and both sides had a great time! With twelve total alumni in attendance, they were able to put together a solid team that gave the current Vikings a great preseason test. The 2010 Vikings came out on top 5-0 (25-14, 25-11, 25-21, 25-18, 15-10).

Alumni Huddle

In attendance were Amanda Stiefel Wells (All Time Kills Leader, All Time Aces Leader, 2nd for Career Digs), Shawn Carroll Darling (All Time Digs Leader, 3rd for Career Aces), Meghan Francis (All Time Block Leader, 2nd for Career Attack Percentage, 3rd for Career Kills), Ashley Weider (2nd for Career Assists), Jamie Boze (2nd for Career Kills, 2nd for Career Blocks),
Grace Brannon (4th for Career Kills), Molly Cline (3rd for Career Digs), Rachel Moreau (3rd for Career Assists, 3rd for Career Blocks) . The rest of the alumni team was made up of former All Conference performers (Taylor Minor), team captains (Leah Thomson, Betsy Bowers), and Top Ten Career Record holders (Nikki Weaver, Leah Thomson, Taylor Minor). Needless to say, the current Vikings are fortunate to have a great legacy to follow!

Sue Francis (Meghan's mom) spoiling Shawn Darling's little one!

Up next...six matches in five days! Go Vikings!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 1 in the Books

Week 1 of the 2010 Berry Volleyball preseason is officially in the books, and we are two happy coaches! This team is off to an incredible start in every aspect of the game (technical, tactical, team chemistry, leadership, work ethic, accountability, etc.)! We can't wait to take the court against our alumni team this weekend in preparation for our first official match next week. Stay tuned for pictures and updates as we go! It's going to be a great year!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A New Beginning!

It is hard to believe that another spring and summer have come and gone, and we are currently awaiting the return to campus of the team! Sean and I have been busy over the last few weeks preparing for their arrival, and we are chomping at the bit to get back on the court. We look forward to sharing the adventures of our season with you, and I am confident that 2010 is going to be a great year for the Vikings!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 7 - Laguna de Apoyo, Grenada, and Monkey Island

It is so hard to believe that today was our last day in Nicaragua. At the same time, because we have packed so much into the week, it feels like we have been here much longer than a week. Here is Kiersten’s (aka Kiki’s) perspective on the day…

“Hey all! So, I have the pleasure of writing the last day’s blog…I hope to not disappoint! As for the day, on our travels to Granada we stopped and saw Laguna de Apoyo, a huge crater lake with the brightest blue waters. We stood on top of a cliff that overlooked the lake, the city of Granada and Lake Nicaragua just on the other side of the city. This place was more beautiful than most scenery I think we saw during the trip. Yogi (Claire Scott) and I welcomed the strong winds with open arms as we stood there. See picture J. Scenes like that remind me how small I really am, in control of pretty much nothing. However, it’s a much welcomed feeling, where compared to in the U.S. I should probably be admitted to C.F.A (Control Freaks Anonymous)…Thank you Nicaragua!

Our next stop was Granada where we enjoyed a nice lunch and a bit of shopping. Granada is a bit more tourist-prone than any other town we’ve been to thus far. The architecture here is unbelievable, so gorgeous. Hard to stop taking pictures! I think everyone is so captivated by the town, or maybe just by all the coffee we bought…Anyway, at 3:00 pm we went sailing to Monkey Island on Lake Nicaragua, where I and a few others jumped on the opportunity to have a monkey possibly come on to our boat. I thought twice about it because our tour guide told us to “be careful of any loose jewelry” and if you know me, the monkeys probably would have taken me captive. However, the one that slinked on to our boat was indifferent to my jewelry and headed straight for the food. He knows what’s up. It was hilarious watching coach try to dodge the monkey trying to crawl on her back. Oh, the memories we will take away! Riding around on the boat on Lake Nicaragua was breathtaking. I just felt at ease being in the surroundings of the scattered islands and greenery growing into the lake. Some of the little islands were even for sale. Mom, I think I know where we should move next. Yes, please! I’m telling you guys, those moments were the moments I’d have to say, “you’d have to be there.” I don’t think anything captures that kind of beauty.

I’m not even really sure how to sum up the last day here in Nicaragua. Peaceful I guess would be right. There is something very indescribable about what I’ve seen here. I know that we’re tourists, and it is expected that we are ohhing and awing at every new sight. In addition, there is something very beautiful about being here and peaceful in this place. Today was something new, something fun, something sweet, and something peaceful. Whatever it was about today, I am grateful for it. Nicaragua, thank you for all that you have offered to us. It was something beautiful.”

We will be back on American soil the next time that we write. We will be back to our everyday lives, but I am confident that we will all have some different perspectives on those lives. Many of us are already beginning to think of ways to return and ways that we can help some of the people that we met. We have all been inspired by the work that Brooke, Mara and so many other volunteers are doing here and touched by the graciousness of our new Nicaraguan friends. It is almost impossible to adequately thank everyone who made this experience possible. From CJ for putting the idea of Nicaragua in my head, to Tim for creating such wonderful tours, to our administration at Berry for allowing us this opportunity, to all of the parents and supporters who supported our efforts, to Brooke, Jo, Mara, CJ, and Linda who helped make it such a memorable trip, we are grateful to everyone for allowing us to have such an incredible experience as a team. Hasta la proxima!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 6 - Jesus on the point, Los Pipitos, and Jinotepe

It is hard to believe that we only have one day left in Nicaragua! We had another full and rewarding day. Here is Claire’s, aka Yogi’s, account of the day…

“Today started early. Kiki and I got up around 7 and did some reading in the hammocks on the front porch of Hotel Casablanca. From there we had a view of the beach and one of the main streets in San Juan del Sur. The breakfasts at Hotel Casablanca have been my favorite meals so far. Every morning we have coffee, orange juice, fruits, scrambled eggs, rice and beans, and toast with guava jelly. The best part of all is the chile sauce that I put on everything, most notably on the guava jelly toast. After breakfast, we drove up to the giant Jesus that overlooks the harbor. There was a great view from up there, and it was cool to see the shadows of the clouds move across the beach and harbor beneath us. Next, we visited the special needs school Los Pipitos, which was one of the best experiences so far. When we arrived, Abby and I went outside with two students to play with chalk. We were very enthusiastic and Abby was more than willing to sacrifice her clean shirt and lay down on the dusty sidewalk so we could trace her. Her sidewalk double came out great, but when we asked one of the students if he wanted to be traced, he looked at us like we were crazy and said, “No, es sucio” or “No, it is too dirty.” After the school, we checked out and moved on to Jinotepe. The bus driver blared some music on the way, including but not limited to Michael Jackson and Guns and Roses. We arrived in Jinotepe and checked into another great hotel, which has 3 parrots that greet guests with a friendly ‘Hola!’”

After we all walked around exploring Jinotepe on foot, we had our last match to play. We played the Nicaraguan National team one last time. We came up a bit short again, but there were some strings of points of great play. This gym was much cooler as there is a nice breeze here this evening. Their team was very gracious and appreciative of having strong competition to play all week. Their coach told us multiple times that they have a difficult time finding quality teams to play except when teams come down from the United States. Overall, playing under such harsh conditions and against our worthy opponents (several of whom were in their late twenties or early thirties) will serve us well this fall. Our young group of players learned a ton about themselves and each other this week on and off the court. Buenas noches!