Beach volleyball prepares for Small College AVCA Championship

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 Andrew Pawling

Beach volleyball will be traveling to Tavares, Florida, to compete in the AVCA Small College Championship on April 19-21. 

The Mocs finished their regular season with a final record of 11-11 which is an improvement from their inaugural season in 2018, where the team finished with a record of 5-18. 

Sophomore Kayla Trefren credits the team’s success to the positive environment the players have built throughout the past two seasons. 

“The team has surprised me with the amount of skill, heart and dedication every individual has given out on the court and in the weight room,” Trefren said.

Mocs Captain Lee Calhoun believes that the team has built on strong foundation off of what they bring to the table as individuals. The team adapts well to each other and is learning how to grow together. Calhoun said that the team shows how all different types of players can come together as one and be successful.

“Each member of this team has their own personality and it really comes through in the court,” Calhoun said.

The Mocs ended their season going 1-4 in their last five matches of the season, which is identical to their record in their first five games of the season. A six-game win streak in March helped propel the team to their near 0.500 record, compensating for the slow starts and finishes to the season.

Senior Morgan Cleary took note of how the team was upbeat and focused in their practices as the group has kept a strong pace following the end of their regular season. Trefren is looking forward to seeing how the Mocs compete in the championship tournament compared to last season.

“I am most excited to see the competition out there on the court and how it will give the team a better look at how we stack up against other small colleges and to see how the skills we learned over the course of the season have improved the team,” Trefren said.

In their final two matchups of the regular season, the Mocs defeated Saint Leo 3-2 on senior day before being shut out by Florida International in their regular season finale. 

The team went 7-1 in their home matches at The Ruthven Beach Volleyball Courts, with going 1-6 on the road and 3-5 in neutral sites. 

The Mocs have had some variation of pairings over the course of the season, mixing up partners based off their opponents. Trefren and Kylee Whiteleather have spent a majority of the season as the first or second group for the Mocs, with Makena Wilson and Alex Montoya sharing time in the top pairings. 

Calhoun has taken freshman Kennedy Mathews under her wing for a majority of the Mocs games. This shows a pattern for head coach Hyrum Keeme putting senior leaders such as Wilson and Calhoun with freshman like Montoya and Mathews.

Goodrich and her partner Celia Greco, which have gone 13-9 this season, have been one constant in the Mocs lineup, often finding success in the middle of the pack for Florida Southern.

The rotation of Emily Jones, Katie Bergeron and Cleary have also played in key matches for the Mocs throughout the season. 

In last year’s AVCA Small College Championship, the Mocs lost their first three matches, being swept in the first day of competition and knocked out of bracket play. The team rebounded in their consultation matches in day two, picking up a win against Lincoln Memorial before being eliminated by Saint Leo.

Cleary said that Throughout this season, the team has improved so drastically that they’ve beat teams that did really well in the championship last year. This year’s team is hoping to make it through the initial stages of bracket play and play meaningful games in all three days of the tournament.

“Being a new team last year, we were still learning the game, and coach has been so selfless with us in teaching us new things daily so that we improve with every practice,” Cleary said. 

Freshman Hayley Goodrich believes that the team will perform well based off how the girls have stepped up and stayed competitive against their more difficult opponents this season.

“My expectations are that we are gonna take off at the championship,” Goodrich said. “My team is full of potential and I’m hype to see how we compete.”

Casey Slezak, Emily Jones, Katie Bergeron, Cleary, Makena Wilson, Kayla Dumon and Trefren are all returners from last years inaugural team. Kennedy Mathews, Genevieve Chiaramonte, Kylee Whiteleather, Curry Ward, Goodrich, Greco, Teegan Nichols, Alex Montoya and Calhoun all joined the team this season and have contributed to the Mocs success. 

Cleary said that playing at the championship last year was “competition” like no other. Two of the biggest struggles that they faces was the heat and playing multiple games in a row. 

The Mocs will take on Carson-Newman on April 19 in the first round of the AVCA Small College Championship at 10 a.m. in Tavares, Fl. 

Following the match against Carson-Newman, the team will take on Lincoln Memorial at 1 p.m.

The day will continue with a final match against Spring Hill at 4 p.m. on April 19. 

The Mocs will continue to play on Saturday and Sunday depending upon the success of the team during Friday’s matches. 

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