Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tribute to Our Seniors

There are a number of topics on my mind on the day after our last match for the 2011 season, but I want to put all of them on hold in order to take some time to reflect on the careers of our two seniors, Kiersten Hammock and Claire Scott.

As a coach, one of the greatest joys of my job is having a front row seat to watch these wonderful young women grow and mature over their four years of college.  Every year, we greet a new group of freshmen, and we say goodbye to another group of seniors.  In the time that passes between their first pre season practice as a freshman and their last game in a Viking jersey, each one of them leave an indelible mark on my life and challenge me to be a better coach every day.  Fortunately, senior night does not really mean goodbye though.  I look forward to continuing to share in their joys and frustrations for years to come as our Berry Volleyball Alumni family is just

I am so proud to say that I am Kiersten and Claire's coach!  They are leaving a tremendous legacy for this team.  At the risk of embarrassing them greatly, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on each of their careers in a Viking jersey.

Kiersten Hammock #14 - aka Kiki - MB from Athens, GA

Kiersten was already a freshman at Berry before I was even aware of her existence.  It was in the spring of her freshmen year that several of our other players came to me to tell me that there was a girl playing intramurals that was pretty good.  At their urging and my request, she finally came to see me.  We decided that she would come to a spring practice with the team as a tryout.  The one day tryout turned into two days and then into a week.  Finally, I asked her to come up to the office to meet with me, and I told her we would love for her to join our team.  Today, we both laugh at her utter surprise and lack of any response except "Ok".  She practiced with us all spring and then returned in the fall for her first collegiate season.  To say that her sophomore year was a bit challenging for both of us would be putting it mildly.  The two of us seemed to be completely incapable of communicating with each other.  At the conclusion of the season, we finally sat down and had a very open conversation where we both gained insight on the other's perspective.  She learned that my belief in her was beyond what she even imagined, and I learned that her guarded demeanor was completely rooted in her perfectionism and high expectations.

Since that first fall, it has been such a joy to watch Kiki grow by leaps and bounds as a volleyball player, and as a team leader.  There were points during her junior year when she still questioned why she was playing and if all of the sacrifice was worth it.  So, to watch her shine in her final season as a Viking (as a leader on and off the court) and to watch her pass on all of those lessons learned to this young team has been so incredibly rewarding for me to watch.  As her senior season was coming to a close, she set one career record after another (16 kills versus Covenant, followed by 19 kills versus Susquehanna and an All Tournament and Player of the Week selection).  We talked a lot this season about 'finishing well', and I can't think of a better way to describe Kiersten's career!

Claire Scott #10 - aka Yogi - OH from Portland, OR

When I took the job as Head Coach of Berry Volleyball, Claire had already committed to come play for the Vikings.  I met her for the first time at her summer orientation and saw her play for the first time when she arrived on campus for pre season.  During that first pre season is when she earned the nickname that I have a feeling will stick with her forever.  On a team laser tag outing, one of the upperclassmen decided that Claire reminded her of Yogi Bear.  From that point forward, she has been known as Yogi.  It was obvious right away that Claire was going to have a big impact on our program.  Even as a freshman, she played in almost every match, and she had a big impact on our defense and serving in a year where we had five seniors and won a conference championship.  It wasn't until much later that I would learn that Claire struggled that year trying to figure out if Berry was the right place for her.  She struggled so much that she even considered not coming back for her sophomore season.  Oh, I am so happy that she did!  She continued to grow as a player through her sophomore year and became even more of a go to player for us.  More importantly, she made better connections with her teammates and coaches and truly enjoyed the experience.

As a junior, Claire stepped into a leadership role when she was voted as one of the team captains.  Similar to Kiki, Claire also has a tendency towards perfectionism (okay that may be a slight understatement), and she struggled throughout her junior year with playing up to her own expectations.  She had a great year by all accounts, but she was often frustrated.  One of the funnier moments involving her handling frustration came after she and I had gone to lunch to find some coping strategies for when she got into that frustrated state.  She decided that she wanted me to send her to run if she got into one of those states during practice or a match.  Her teammates were unaware of our agreement, so you can imagine their surprise when I sent her off to run between sets one and two of our match against our biggest rival, Shorter.  She came back after two full minutes of sprinting the hallways of Shorter dripping with sweat but completely refocused and ready to perform.

As a senior, Claire stepped up in every way possible.  One of the requests our coaches made of her was  to be more vocal than she is by nature.  She took that request to heart and was consistently one of our most vocal players this fall.  To say she finished her career on a high note is putting it mildly.  She surpassed 1,000 career digs and 1,000 career points, led our team in kills, and was only 8 aces away from breaking Berry's career ace record.  Along the way, she earned All Tournament and Player of the Week honors and had 13 double-double performances!

It has become a tradition for our team to have a highlight video honoring our seniors that we play in the concourse before our senior night match and show the team during our pre-game talk.  Below is the video from last night.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dig Pink a Huge Success!


Tonight had it all...big hits, big blocks, incredible digs, milestones, AND we raised a lot of money for a great cause!  The final tally will probably take a couple of days as pledges continue to come in and shirts continue to sell, but the Viking Volleyball family is very appreciative of all of the fans who came out to support our Dig Pink event tonight (or supported from afar).  I think the fans that made it to the Cage tonight would say that they got their money's worth!

Here are the winners of the jersey auction:

#1 Meredith Hopper - winning bidder Michael Hopper for $200
#2 Krista Miller - winning bidder Donna Miller for $40
#3 Sarah Steffan - winning bidder Anonymous Donor for $50
#4 Christy Meggitt - winning bidder Anonymous Donor for $50
#5 Stormy Coppotelli - winning bidder Terry Coppotelli for $100
#6 Kelsey Lochstampfor - winning bidder Elysa Lochstampfor for $25
#7 Stephanie Quinn - winning bidder Yvette Dickens for $40
#9 Chrissy Ricketts - winning bidder Matt Ricketts for $100
#10 Claire Scott - winning bidder Bill Scott for $100
#11 Kristin Hargrove - winning bidder Anonymous Donor for $50
#12 Gretchen Kaufman - winning bidder Suzanne Kaufman for $40
#13 Megan Woodall - winning bidder Anonymous Donor for $50
#14 Kiersten Hammock - winning bidder Ginger Swann for $100

Total amount raised for the Side-Out Foundation from the jersey auction = $945
(Game jerseys were donated by Kessler Sports, so 100% of this money goes to the cause!)

Gate receipts, t-shirt sales, pledges, and spare change collections will be tallied in the next couple of days. Check back for our final total raised!

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this a successful event!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dig Pink - Jersey Auction and more!

On Tuesday, October 25, Berry Volleyball will hold our first annual Dig Pink event to raise money and awareness to benefit the Side Out Foundation, a charitable organization that is committed to the unification of the sport of volleyball and its alliance with the movement for breast cancer awareness, education, and research.  You can click on the link above to donate directly to help us reach our fundraising goal of $2,500, or you can help us reach our goal in a number of other ways.

1) Attend our match versus Covenant on October 25, and 100% of the gate admission will go towards the cause!

2) Bring your spare change to donate at the event.  We will be passing around a special volleyball "bank" to collect change.

3) Pledge to donate an amount of money per dig that we make in our Oct 25 match.  We are averaging 16.45 digs per set which means we are likely to have between 49 and 82 digs in the match depending on how many sets we play.  So, a pledge of $.50 per dig would mean a donation of between $24.50 and $41.  You can e-mail Coach Mika Robinson at or contact your favorite player to make a pledge.

4) Buy a Berry Dig Pink shirt at the event or by e-mailing Coach Mika Robinson at  Shirts are $10 each and are available in adult sizes.

5) Buy one of the game jerseys in our jersey auction!  To bid on a jersey, e-mail Coach Mika Robinson at to get a bid number.  You may e-mail Coach Robinson as often as you like to update your bid.  This post will be updated to reflect current bids.  Remote bidding will close at 3:00pm on Oct 25 and silent auction bidding will re-open at the match.  If you are unable to attend the match, you can e-mail a "high bid" to be applied at the end of the evening.  The following jerseys are available for auction:


 #      Player Name                     Current Bid Amount              Current High Bid #
#1     Meredith Hopper                             $200                                              5
#2     Krista Miller                                      $40                                              10
#3     Sarah Steffan                                  $20                                               1
#4     Christy Meggitt                                 $20                                               1
#5     Stormy Coppotelli                            $100                                              4
#6     Kelsey Lochstampfor                       $20                                               1
#7     Stephanie Quinn                             $40                                               6
#9     Chrissy Ricketts                               $100                                              3
#10   Claire Scott                                      $100                                              7
#11   Kristin Hargrove                               $20                                               1
#12   Gretchen Kaufman                          $20                                               1
#13   Megan Woodall                               $20                                               1
#14   Kiersten Hammock                          $50                                               9

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What happened to September?

After realizing that we haven't updated our blog since the first weekend, I realized just how quickly the first half of our season has gone!  After returning from California determined to improve, we did just that! We opened at home against Reinhardt with a solid victory in front of our always great home crowd and then won all four matches in the Cage that weekend to claim our 4th consecutive Berry Invitational Championship.  So, after our 0-4 start, we quickly found ourselves 5-4 and all seemed right again.

The beginning of the next week brought more challenges as we dropped a close four set match on the road to Piedmont, and we all felt like we could have played better.  However, as I am beginning to realize about this team, they are terrific at bouncing back.  We went on the road two days later and beat a very solid Faulkner team in three sets.

From there, our attention quickly turned to preparing to host our cross town rival Shorter the following Tuesday.  In front of a record crowd (over 1,000 fans in the Cage that night), we lost a tight four set match, but there were a light of bright moments.  See a few highlights below.

The following weekend we headed to Emory to play in their homecoming tournament.  I don't know when I have been so proud of a group of players as I was that weekend.  We went into the weekend with a variety of challenges including injuries, illness, and a team member having lost a loved one.  When it was all said and done, we played three five set matches (won two and lost one of them) and THEN played #3 in the country with a line up we had only practiced one day and competed very well.  Our team's heart and competitive spirit over the course of that long weekend was something to be admired.  Along the way we were also fortunate to have one of our families host us for brunch, and it was the perfect way to start that second day of the tournament.

This past week brought more challenges as the majority of our team were struggling with some type of cold/flu.  It was a rough start to the week as we dropped our match on the road, but we rebounded to defeat an NCAA DII school in the Cage to kick off Mountain Day weekend and honor our parents.  Below is a short video that we shared on parent night prior to introducing the parents before the match.  Enjoy!

Speaking of honors, two of our players reached really big milestones this month.  Senior outside hitter Claire Scott and junior libero Kristin Hargrove both reached 1,000 career digs.  It was fitting that they reached this milestone so close together as they compliment each other so well on our back row.  We were able to honor them prior to our parents' night match and present each of them with the game ball that was in play when they made their 1,000th dig.

We head to Shorter again tonight!  Looking forward to sharing some great highlights from tonight's match!  Go Vikings!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adversity Builds Character

Opening weekend...months of anticipation...weeks of preparation...full day of travel...performance below our expectations.  This past weekend, we travelled across the country to play in the Pacific Coast Classic tournament at Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges.  Our entourage included seven freshmen, three sophomores, one junior, two seniors, coaches, athletic trainer, and manager.  Our travel to California was uneventful, and we made it to Claremont in time to check in to our hotel and head to practice.  After the practice, the coaches felt good about our level of focus, intensity, and execution, and we all had high expectations for the matches to come.

Unfortunately, the next two days would prove to provide ample learning opportunities rather than ample celebratory opportunities.  Our young team struggled with consistency in all aspects of the game.  It is true that we were playing in non air conditioned gyms, and we were operating in a time zone three hours different than our own.  It is also true that we had more than one player sitting on the sidelines unable to participate due to recent injuries.  However, we were all disappointed in the discrepancy between what we have been doing in practice on a daily basis for the past few weeks and what showed up on the court. On the other hand, this young group showed their heart as they continued to push themselves just as hard at the end of the fourth match as they had on point one of the first match.  We came home with a list of things that we need to do to improve, and we are thankful for the opportunity to be tested and have our weaknesses exposed.  Great things will come from this young team...just wait and see!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chomping at the bit...

Our equestrian team won a national championship this past spring, so I thought the analogy would be fitting to describe our anticipation for the beginning of our season! The 2011 edition of Viking Volleyball will all be together for the first time tonight at our annual "Welcome Back" dinner, spend tomorrow in administrative meetings, and kick off practice on Thursday. We will welcome six new faces to the team this fall, and the coaches can't wait to get started!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful for safety!

If you have seen any of the photos of the devastation across the Southeast, you will understand how very thankful we are that everyone at Berry is safe tonight! The last day and a half has been quite an adventure that I don't think any of us will soon forget. Around 9 am yesterday (Wednesday), a storm blew through seemingly out of nowhere that toppled hundreds of Berry's biggest oak trees in a matter of minutes, shut down power to half of Rome, and created devastating damage to many area homes (due to trees falling on them). As we all spent the day trying to grasp the extent of the damage (the graduation tree and dozens of trees around the President's residence among the most striking), we started hearing of the devastating tornadoes developing in Mississippi and Alabama. By 7:30 pm, it seemed that these monster tornadoes were headed directly towards us. As we all communicated by text and found various safe places (definitely a time when we were all thankful for the solid stone and brick construction that we often take for granted!), we awaited the worst and relayed radio messages to those without battery radios. There were a number of frightening moments as various cells barely went around us, and by midnight we were in the clear. Unfortunately, some of our neighboring communities were not so fortunate. While we spent the rest of the evening and this morning without power on campus (and I still don't have power at home as I write this on my iPhone), we are so fortunate to not be grieving loss of life and to be safe and secure in our beds tonight. I hope to post a slideshow of pictures taken around campus today to give you a small taste of what we have seen. Gratefully yours, Berry Volleyball.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Summer is coming quickly!

Well, at least preparations for summer are coming quickly! With another dusting of snow on the ground this morning, it is hard to believe spring is right around the corner!

In addition to traveling for recruiting, scheduling for next fall, and planning for our spring training, the coaching staff has been busy planning our spring clinics and summer camps. If you or someone you know is looking to improve your game this year, be sure to check out our 2011 line up of camps and clinics!

Monday, January 24, 2011

End of the Year Banquet

Last Thursday, we had an opportunity to get together to celebrate our season accomplishments one more time. It was a time to reflect on our accomplishments as a team and on the individual contributions made by each player. We had several parents and grandparents join us, and, in the future, we plan to have the banquet on a weekend so even more of our families might be able to join us.

Here are a few of the highlights...

Every player on our team played a critical role in our success this year. Some of those roles were more visible to the casual observer, but every role was important. Here are some of the highlights of each player's role this year.

Bethany Willis, freshman Middle Blocker/Rightside – set the work ethic standard for our team, was driven to improve, consistently put time in on her own and it showed, we expected her to do well blocking and hitting but what was a pleasant surprise was how good her back row defense was, if she continues to improve at the same rate that she did all year, she will do great things in the future

Megan Woodall, freshman Setter/DS – was willing to take on multiple roles, spent a good part of the season focusing on setting and slowly transitioned into more of a defensive role, asked her to make some major technical changes in all of her skills and she worked really hard to make that happen, played in 86 of 122 sets and finished with 1.19 digs per set.

Sarah Steffan, freshman Outside Hitter – knew when we recruited her that she would make a big impact, but did not realize how quickly she would make that impact! Led the team in total kills and kills per set with 350 kills and 2.94 kills/set and added a great dimension to our serving game with her jump topspin serve. And, she did it all with that consistent smile!

Stephanie Quinn, freshman Setter – With 1151 assists, she already sits second on the Berry’s single season record list for assists and that record holder played when the games were played to 30 points. That is a big accomplishment considering that she spent her entire last year of high school/club playing outside hitter and defensive specialist! In addition, with her team best 0.332 hitting percentage and team best 67 aces, she is already in the Berry’s single season top ten in those two categories. And the best part is that she will tell you she still has a lot to learn!

Jennifer Tinnell, sophomore Rightside Hitter – I think it goes without saying that we really missed Jenn’s skill and energy on the court this fall. As a coach, seeing players go down with serious injuries is one of the worst parts of the job, because it is when you feel the most helpless. However, Jenn consistently inspired and encouraged her teammates this fall and still managed to be a big part of our success.

Kristin Hargrove, sophomore Libero – Playing in all 122 sets this year, Kristin did an incredible job in that other color jersey. She finished the season with 4.1 digs/set and as only a sophomore is already in Berry’s top 10 for single season digs, single season digs per set, career digs, and 2nd in career digs per set. What those categories don’t show is how well she anchored our serve receive with a 2.31 passing rating for the season.

Claressa Brekke, sophomore Middle Blocker – Put in a ton of work in the off season to get faster, jump higher, and have a better armswing. It all paid off as she ranked third on our team in hitting percentage with a 0.262 hitting percentage (more than doubling her hitting percentage and tripling her number of kills from her freshman year), also contributed 41 aces and 47 blocks for the year.

Kiersten Hammock, junior Middle Blocker – With a 0.281 hitting percentage, she was second on her team in hitting efficiency putting her in the top ten for single season attack percentage. More than doubled her efficiency from the previous year and had five times the number of blocks with a team leading 61.

Claire Scott, junior Outside Hitter – one of our team captains, took the most swings on our team while also being one of our primary passers, finished with 319 kills (almost double her kill total last year), 43 aces, and 3.12 digs/set (an impressive number considering she only plays in the back row for three rotations).

Erin Godwin, senior Rightside Hitter – our other team captain, the epitome of versatility, Erin played every position except libero during her career and played RS, MB, and OH in matches this year, finished in Berry’s career top 10 in 9 of 12 categories, consistently our go to player in clutch situations.

We also gave out a couple of special awards. Bethany Willis received the Viking Award for exhibiting the work ethic, encouraging attitude, and determination that we value so much as a program. Kiersten Hammock received the Most Improved Award for the improvements she made over the last year. Finally, Erin Godwin received the Most Valuable Player award for the impact she had throughout the season.