Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Senior!

A great deal has happened since I last wrote, and I will in time try to put into words what it was like for this team to reach it's goal of winning the first ever SAA Championship.  However, I want to take a few minutes now to highlight a player who was such a huge part of that journey - our senior, Jenn Tinnell!

Jenn Tinnell came in as a freshman as part of the first class to be recruited under NCAA rules at Berry. As a member of that class, she was slated to compete for four years with no post-season play as Berry was just starting the four year transition from NAIA to NCAA.  As a freshman, she played primarily right side for us and was a major contributor.  Going into her sophomore year, we were expecting more of the same.  She had a great preseason, and I had submitted our starting line up for our first match with her number on it.  Two minutes before the game started she went up for an attack and came down what appeared to be a little off balance.  She started walking towards the bench and I met her to ask, "Are you okay?"  Her response..."I think I just tore my ACL again."  As a coach, you hurt when your players hurt, and there have been very few instances that I have hurt any more for a player than I did watching Jenn sustain that injury and then go through an incredibly extensive surgery and rehab to repair what ended up being very extensive damage to her knee.  Not only did she not return to play her sophomore or junior year, but no one (including our coaches, her parents, or our trainers) expected her to return for her senior season.  She had been able to play tennis again, but we all thought volleyball was out of the question.  However, Jenn had other plans.

Jenn has always epitomized "team player," and she desperately missed playing a team sport.  She trained on her own all spring and summer of this year in the hopes of proving to herself, her coaches, and her parents that she could return to play volleyball.  She came to see me in late June / early July long after our roster had already been solidified for this fall to ask if I would be willing to give her a chance to come back to play on the team.  At that point, she had not played competitive volleyball for almost two years, and my first response was concern about her being disappointed in what she would be able to contribute now versus what she contributed as a healthy, talented freshman.  After consulting with her parents and doing a bit of soul searching regarding her motives, she and I agreed that she could come back to join the team.  However, we did decide that it would be in her best interest not to play a front row position that would require a lot of jumping.  So, she would become a 5'10" defensive specialist who also happened to be one of the smarter hitters I have ever coached.  As a coach, I really didn't know what to expect from her physically, but I did know that she would make our team better with her work ethic and her team first mentality.

The first day of preseason brought the expected physical testing, grueling two a day practices, and tests of mental toughness.  What stands out the most to me both then and now from that day was the pure joy that was emanating from Jenn.  It didn't matter how tough the drill was, how tired she was, or what position she was playing, she was ecstatic to be back with her teammates playing the game that she loves.  I mentioned that I had noticed her big smile during the first practice and how happy it made me to see her back on the floor, and she merely responded, "It's SO MUCH FUN!!"

As the season progressed and her younger teammates developed meaningful relationships with Jenn, it was no surprise that she was selected as one of the co-captains.  She brought a consistently positive attitude to the gym and her work ethic and attitude constantly reminded all of us to not take one day for granted.  On a team that consisted of 10 of our 15 players being freshmen and sophomores, her maturity  coupled with her experience brought so much to the gym.  Her skills returned quickly and just got better as the season went.  By the end, her ball control, and particularly her serve receive, was one of the biggest components to our success this season.  She played well enough as a libero (a position she had never played prior to this year) to be named to the 2nd Team All Conference and make the SAA Conference All Tourney team as well as be named MVP of the Berry Invitational.  However, beyond all of her great play, it is Jenn's humility, love for her team, and calm under pressure that we will all miss the most!  As her coach, it has been a pure joy to have been along for the ride with her this year and watch her overcome so much to lead her team to the greatest season in Berry history!

Enjoy some highlights from Jenn's career...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dig Pink - Jersey Auction and more!

On Wednesday, October 17, Berry Volleyball will hold our second 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 Shorter on October 17, and 100% of the gate admission will go towards the cause!

2) Bring your spare change to donate at the event.  We will have a "penny" war to see which school's fans can raise the most money.

3) Pledge to donate an amount of money per dig that we make in our Oct 17 match.  We are averaging 13.03 digs per set which means we are likely to have between 39 and 65 digs in the match depending on how many sets we play.  So, a pledge of $.50 per dig would mean a donation of between $19.50 and $32.50.  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 17 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       Current High Bid #
1      Stephanie Steele                 $75                     5
2      Krista Miller                         $40                    7
3      Sarah Steffan                      $20    
4      Emily Stromberg                 $20    
6      Kelsey Lochstampfor           $75                    10  
7      Stephanie Quinn                  $40                     6
8      Meredith Hopper                   $500                  1
9      Chrissy Ricketts                    $20                   4
10    Lauren Schmitz                     $20                  12
11    Anna Keappler                      $50                   9       
12    Gretchen Kaufman                $35                  11      
13    Megan Woodall                     $20        
14    Katie O'Rourke                      $20          
15    Claressa Brekke                    $50                   3
18    Jennifer Tinnell                      $20


 #      Player Name                      Current Bid       Current High Bid #
1       Jennifer Campbell          $20
2       Jasmine Crook               $20
3       Megan Pepe                   $20
4       Christina Johnson          $20
5       Lauren Millsaps             $20
7       Taylor Wilkerson           $20
8       Jasmine Nieman            $20
9       Leslie Welch                 $20
11     Brooke Dowd               $20
12     Loren Olive                   $20
13     Tanequa Whitman         $20
14     Anna Graham                $20
15     Jessica White                 $20                  13
16     Sarah Armstrong           $20
17     Dena Pierce                   $20
21     Jordan Corder                $20
22     Kelsey Kirk                   $20
23     Michala Askew              $20


Parents' Day and Mountain Day

What a great weekend to be a part of the Berry family!  Mountain Day is a homecoming tradition that celebrated its 98th year this year, and it is truly a unique Berry experience.  Then, when you add three home volleyball victories and recognition of our parents on Parents' Day, and you really could not ask for a better weekend!

Friday started off with our opportunity to pay Centre back for our lone conference loss so far this year.  Our team came mentally and physically prepared as we finished off our conference opponent in three sets.  However, there was no time to celebrate as our match versus perennial regional contender Maryville started a mere 40 minutes later.  The Maryville match turned into a thrilling five set victory that provided some incredibly long rallies for our loyal fans to enjoy.  Without a doubt, Maryville made us earn that victory, and singing the Alma Mater after the victory never felt so sweet!

Saturday brought Mountain Day festivities including the Grand March, picnic on the mountain, Parents' Day prior to our match versus Sewanee, and finally Marthapalooza on Saturday night.  The day was a resounding success with beautiful weather, another solid conference win, and great fellowship with friends and family!  Below are the pre-game video dedicated to our parents along with a few fun photos from Mountain Day!  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Home At Last!

When you start the season with three consecutive weeks of road games, you gain a totally new appreciation for playing at home!  We returned home this past weekend to play our first matches of the season in the Stephen J. Cage Center and what a homecoming it was!  Friday night started with a tailgate for our fans sponsored by Residence Life, our first 50 fans received a special Berry Athletics t-shirt, and our fans came dressed in the their "frat attire" as part of the promotional theme!  From the opening rendition of the Berry Fight Song to the crowd joining our team in singing the Berry Alma Mater after the home conference win, it could not have been more fun to play at home!  Here are just a few of the things that we like about playing at home:
  • we have the best fans in DIII volleyball
  • the Cage Center is an ideal volleyball facility that enables us to run our matches in a first class manner
  • we get to control the warm up music  :-)
  • sleeping in our own beds sure is nice
  • no stress from missed classes
  • no long bus rides
  • did I mention that we have the best fans in DIII volleyball?
  • coach's son provides ample entertainment any time there is music, and there is a lot of music at our home games
Fortunately, we get to play at home for the next two weekends!  If you are anywhere near Rome, we hope you will come and enjoy the fun as we continue on our quest for a conference championship!  So far, we are 4-1 (2-0 at home) in conference with some important match ups coming up in the next two weeks!

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what's in store!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Every year, our coaching staff seeks out individuals who we think will be a good fit athletically and, more importantly, a good fit with our team chemistry.  This past year was no exception.  This year, however, does present some interesting challenges and opportunities.  For the first time in my tenure as the head coach of Berry Volleyball, we have a full roster of 15 players.  Along with that full roster comes an incredible amount of depth and competition for positions and playing time.  Coming into the season, we challenged our players to see this depth and competition as the blessing that it is to a team who is determined to win the first ever SAA Championship.  After a week and a half of preseason, two scrimmages, and a tournament championship under our belt, I am happy to report that they have totally embraced this blessing.

This past weekend took us to our opening tournament at Clearwater Christian College.  We plowed through the competition with the composure and unity that would be expected of  a veteran team.  However, our team has five new players, no true seniors (both of our seniors medically redshirted last year), and ten of our fifteen players have a year or less of college playing experience.  I had numerous outsiders compliment our team's performance, and it truly was enjoyable to watch them go about their task of making every point count and relying on each other.  Position groups (players who all play the same position and thus compete directly for playing time) were obviously cheering for each other no matter which of them found their way to the court, accountability partners were celebrating good plays, and there were absolutely no lines between classes.  The day after the tournament ended we had the opportunity to relax at the beach, play a little sand volleyball, and just enjoy each other's company.  It was so much fun to watch the ebb and flow of their interactions as there were no consistent cliques, no individuals on the outside looking in, and everyone was included and inclusive.

Obviously, one might argue that a 4-0, tournament championship start might be the reason for all of our euphoria, but I am confident that it has much more to do with the heart of these individuals and this team.  I know we will face our challenges (we have already been faced with some injury challenges), but I know that our commitment to each other and the big picture will carry us through those challenges.

I often say that I am blessed to be the coach of Berry Volleyball and work with the amazing women who make up this team (past and present), and this year is certainly no exception!  While I might have majored in psychology, I can assure you that I know the right chemistry for a championship team when I see it, and the 2012 Berry Vikings have exactly the right ingredients!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

80 Days...

80 days from today the Southern Athletic Association will crown its first ever conference champion in volleyball.  The 2012 Berry Vikings return to campus today and begin their quest to be one of the two teams playing in that game.  It will be a year of firsts...the first year the Vikings can compete for a conference championship since the move to NCAA DIII...the first year competing in the newly formed Southern Athletic Association conference...the first year that every player on the team was recruited under NCAA DIII rules...the first year with Assistant Coach Caitlyn Jansen.  It will also be a year of carrying on the tradition of the Viking teams who have played before...playing Shorter in the another Dig Pink match to raise money for breast cancer awareness...honoring our parents on Parents' Day....playing with heart, passion, and commitment to team.  2012 is going to be a special year in Berry Volleyball history...the story has 80 days to unfold!

See you in the Cage!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Big Picture

     There are many things I have come to love about Berry over the last four years, but one of the things that I love most is how it promotes finding ways to improve the lives of those around us.  Last night, our team was honored to receive one of the coveted Heart of Berry Awards "in recognition of invaluable contributions to the campus and community, for our support of cancer awareness and research, and for continuously embodying the Berry College motto, 'Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.'"  We received the beautiful plaque pictured above as well as a very nice certificate to commemorate the honor.  Quite honestly, we could not have been more surprised by the honor, as I don't think any of us feel like we have done anything out of the ordinary or above and beyond what we are all called to do.  In fact, we often talk about wanting to find more ways to give back.  However, I find myself this morning being very grateful not just for the recognition but for being part of an institution that places value on service.  This also led me to reflect on many things over the last few months that have reminded me of "the big picture."

     Every player who we have recruited to Berry College has heard me talk about how we want our program to be about life lessons (quickly followed by the assertion that you would be hard pressed to find anyone more competitive than me!).  In the heat of the competition, when we are dealing with injuries or conflict, or when challenges present themselves, we sometimes get caught up in the moment.  However, it is my hope that our values and guiding principles shine through, especially in those moments.  Fortunately, I always have some great reminders of that "big picture," our alumnae!  A few months ago, I got a call from a recent alumna letting me know she would be in town and hoping we could get together for coffee.  As we caught up over coffee the next day, our conversation quickly turned to some of her current struggles, and I was touched that she sincerely wanted my thoughts and advice on the topic.  About a month later, I had the pleasure of catching up with two of our alumnae while I was on the recruiting trail and they were coaching their club teams.  Aside from talking to them about their lives and coaching, the highlight of my weekend was watching them on the sidelines.  The passion with which they were helping their teams pursue excellence, the way in which they continuously supported their players, and their composure in the moment were all great reminders to me of "the big picture."  Over our spring break, our family had a chance to spend some time with Mickey and friends at Disney.  However, the friend that was the highlight of the trip was another alumna who chose to spend her two days off that week hanging out with us.  Just this past week, a simple "Happy Birthday" text to an alumna that I had not talked to in a while turned into a great text conversation.  While she reported how much she misses playing and misses being part of our team, she was also able to report on all of her current successes.  I wouldn't trade any of these moments for the world, and they make all of the daily struggles, conflicts, and challenges worth it ten times over.

     So, for today, I have definitely been reminded of Berry's charge to us...we are "not to be ministered unto, but to minister."  After all, that IS the "the big picture"!