Maverick volleyball ‘proving it’ in 2012
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 19:09
The first trip through Division I competition could best be described as forgettable for the UNO volleyball program. In 2011, the Mavs finished just 5-23 against a schedule that included 11 D-I matches.
This season there is no jumping from division to division. All 28 contests are against Division I teams, including 16 Summit League matchups.
Perhaps it’s because of a tougher schedule. Perhaps it’s because UNO’s first experience as a D-I school was a rude awakening. Regardless of the reasons, Head Coach Rose Shires is asking her team to prove it in 2012.
“One morning this summer she (Shires) came in and she had all these red bands for us,” senior defensive specialist Amy Roberts said. “They say ‘Prove it Today’, and on the inside they say ‘Maverick Volleyball.’
“It’s kind of something for us to always look down at. She wants us to make sure that when we look down at it, it’s always facing towards us so we can read it. It’s just a constant reminder that we’re gonna prove that we’re here to play, prove that we can compete Division I and prove that we’re ready to compete.”
In last season’s 11 matches against upper division talent, the Mavs managed just seven wins and had a combined hitting average of just .098. Seven times the Mavs were swept in straight sets.
UNO lost in their first nine tries as a Division I program to get a D-I win, finally breaking though with a 3-2 victory at UMKC on Oct. 16.
“Each practice the coaches unanimously pick one (player), and we’ve had up to three, of the person who proved it that day,” Roberts said. “[The player] who proved it that day, who proved it that practice, who was all out, who was doing what the coaches asked of them or who made the biggest improvement that day.”
Take a look around campus and you might see a few backpacks adorned with Shires’ ‘Prove It’ wristbands. Players started taking the extra ones they’ve earned and stringing them through the same spot that has their nametag and identifies them as a student athlete.
The player with the most bracelets at the end of the season will be the Prove It Player of the Year.
“Right now we’re all focusing on proving it every day, each and every one of us,” Roberts said. The senior also noted that there is “definitely a competition going” on who can amass the most wristbands.
So far, UNO is 5-5, and they’ve already achieved as many wins in 10 games as they did all of last season. The graduation of two of the program’s best players and the departure of five others left the Mavs with just three upperclassmen to lead the way towards proving it in 2012.
Roberts, along with outside hitter Natalie Ebke and middle blocker Chelsea Snyder, are the only seniors among two sophomores, four redshirt freshmen and five true freshmen.
“We wanted to have a mindset that we weren’t a young group,” Roberts said. “We were gonna go in and we were gonna compete as if we were all seniors and that we all had that experience.”
Teaching the younger players began with leading in offseason workouts. Through weightlifting in the early mornings and spring practices, Roberts and her fellow seniors had all their teammates hitting their fitness goals.
At the end of summer workouts the team was tested in a 10-yard dash, an agility run and a vertical. Roberts indicated that almost everyone on the team improved in each category.
But growing team chemistry also means being together more than just when everyone is on campus.
“Since there is only three of us (seniors), me, Chelsea and Natalie, we want to make this as close of a team as possible,” Roberts said. “Just because we’re all older than the other girls on the team, we don’t want to make it feel like that.”
Roberts said her and her fellow seniors tried to get everyone out for team dinners and spent time getting together at teammates’ houses. Each of the three seniors brings their own leadership abilities.
But Roberts said differences in age and experience mean little. The seniors want to make everyone feel invested in the team’s success.
“There’s definitely those times we need to step up and say things as upperclassmen because we’re here, we’ve had the experience and we kind of know what needs to happen,” Roberts said. “So we do step up when those roles need to be taken, but for the most part we try to keep us all as equals.”