This year, the Cal Poly women’s volleyball team has added six freshman players into the mix, including middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald (left).
The six freshmen on the volleyball team have more to adjust to than leaving home and fitting into a new environment.
The addition of these young players has shifted the balance between older and younger players on the team. Freshmen and sophomores make up 10 of the team’s 18 student-athletes.
Although it’s challenging to have a young team, underclassmen also bring a new level of excitement.
“I think the only obvious challenge is that they haven’t acclimated to college life,” outsider hitter Megan McConnell said. “But they are really excited about everything. I think it’s easy to get a little jaded by the end of your career. Everything is kind of routine and nothing is new, so seeing them come in and so excited to play definitely makes us want to work hard, too.”
The freshmen on the team had an extra month to adjust to their new lives. During preseason in August, the freshmen set up camp in their team members’ houses.
“During fall camp, we come at the beginning of August, and the student body doesn’t get here until September,” McConnell said. “So (the freshmen) live in our houses, and we try and show them around.”
The freshmen also have a drive to impress coaches and other players. Although they might have been among the top players at their high schools, they are starting over in the college world.
“The freshmen are younger and think they have to prove more to the coaches, their teammates and the staff,” head coach Sam Crosson said. “They are all used to coming from successful club and high school programs, so it’s interesting to see how those role changes occur throughout the season.”
The freshmen also have to adjust to the college style of volleyball.
“I played in high school, but it was a lot different,” middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald said. “It’s a lot faster. It’s new and fun to get used to, but it makes it a lot harder and a challenge to get used to.”
Gruenewald is the only freshman starter on the team and has played in nearly every match. A few other players, including Lexi Reddick and Anna Gormon, have also made appearances on the court.
With the season nearing its final matches the players have a chance to look back on their improvement.
“I definitely feel that I’ve improved,” Reddick said. “I feel at first I was kind of nervous and not playing my best. But I think, as a team, we’ve all gotten a whole lot better during the season.”
Since they’ve been through the same situation together, these students made bonds with each other, which still exist outside of practice.
“We are all actually pretty close,” Reddick said. “We get dinner together every night.”