Volleyball uses off-season to prep for national dominance

Lady Saints get ready for first home game


Mary Ramirez

As the team scrimmages against each other, the Lady Saints look up to the air to find the ball. Malena Catala, a freshman from Argentina, gets prepared to hit the ball. The volleyball has their first home match and conference game Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Greenhouse.

William Swanson, Club Reporter

Just four months after a heartbreaking loss to Barton in the Region VI championship, the Saints’ volleyball team practices in the same gym where a 3-point loss stood between them and a bid to nationals. They don’t just look to avenge that Region VI loss, but to claim a spot in the national tournament where many thought they were snubbed last season.

Berfin Mertcan, freshman from Ismir, Turkey, practices setting up a play. The setter began her career last week with over 70 assists at a tournament in New Mexico. (Mary Ramirez)

“To lose that last game by 3 points in the fifth set to go to nationals, and then think we’re going to still get a bid because of our record, and we end up not getting one, that’s all the motivation we need,” Geno Frugoli, head volleyball coach, said about this new new season.

The hard work for the Lady Saints started on Aug. 1 with practice every morning and night. The practices were scheduled early and late to avoid the heat in the gym on days where temperatures were above 100 degrees.

“That’s [schedule] pretty hard, because we have to wake up pretty early,” Gabriela Badilla, a sophomore from San Felipe, Chile, said. “This semester, we have a really good team. We have a big chance to go to nationals and win.” 

Last spring the Lady Saints struggled with injuries to key players making it hard for them to rotate players in and out of the game. This season, nine freshmen join the team with the returning five sophomores.

“We only had eight players, so if someone got injured, we [couldn’t] play,” Seyun Park, a sophomore from Anyang, South Korea, said. “Right now, we have thirteen players… it’s better than last season.”

This season will take place just four months after the spring season concluded. The 2020 fall season was pushed back due to COVID-19. Playing two seasons in a year could prove to be challenging for some, but Frugoli is welcoming the short offseason.

“Last year [the season] ended on such a sour note, I think everyone wants to make it right, so the quicker we can get on the court the better,” Frugoli said.

Although the Lady Saints have been preparing, they have also been getting closer off the field as a team. Just a few weeks ago, the team gave out backpacks at a local church. They also participated in the grand opening of El Rancho. Through these events, they haven’t just grown closer but also shown the community how much it means to represent them.

“We were getting host families from all over the city to host dinners for us during preseason while the cafeteria was closed… not only did it help us bond, but we got to learn about everybody in the community and the people that want our program to do well,” Frugoli said.

The coach mentioned how all the events in the community and host family dinners helped the team realize how much they mean to the community.

Ileim Terrero, sophomore from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, practices setting the ball while calling plays. The veteran setter scored 4.5 points on opening weekend at a tournament in New Mexico while logging more than 20 assists. (Mary Ramirez)

“I think that opened the girls’ eyes that they’re playing for more than just each other,” Frugoli said.

The Lady Saints opened the season at the New Mexico Military Institute classic tournament last weekend where they played two matches on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, the Lady Saints opened the season against New Mexico Military Institute where they struggled in the 0-3 match loss. They looked rusty and confused. They overcame their bad play and defeated Salt Lake Community College 3-1. SLCC entered the tournament ranked No. 15 just below Seward County.

On Saturday, the Lady Saints defeated Pima Community College handily 3-1. In the last match of the tournament, Seward County faced Snow College—ranked No. 3 in the country and runner-up in the national tournament last spring. Although the Lady Saints won the first set, they would barely lose the next three. It was a close game against a top ranked community college which showed the team can compete against the best competition nationally.

The Lady Saints play their home opener against Pratt Community College on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Greenhouse. Although the greenhouse is allowing in more spectators, masks are required to attend the game.