SEASON PREVIEW: Youth Returns For Volleyball Men

Josh White will look to make an impact this season as a returning hitter. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Josh White will look to make an impact this season as a returning hitter. (photo by Scott Eyre)

After going through a rebuilding year with one of the toughest schedules in the country a season ago, the EMU men's volleyball team returns a youthful group looking to continue making strides to get back to the CVC Tournament.

Record in 2019: 4-19 (4-7 CVC)
Coach: Danielle Lickey (25-32 overall, 12-12 CVC in two seasons) – Last season, the Royals finished fifth in the CVC in Digs/Set in conference play with 9.45.

Season opener in 2020:
- host St. Andrews in Yoder Arena on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3:00pm

Other season highlights:
- host Immaculata on Saturday, Feb. 8 in the first CVC game of the season
- head to Reading, Pa. on Saturday, Feb. 22 for the Alvernia Tri-Match
- play preseason nationally ranked Juniata at home on Feb. 29
- host Dominican (IL) on Wednesday, Mar. 11
- Rowdy Royals Game and Senior Recognition in their home finale against Marymount on Mar. 24
- end the season playing at Lancaster Bible on April 3

Interview

SID:  How would you recap the 2019 season in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your team for this year?

DL:  The 2019 season was a transition year from the culture and play of the old into the culture and play of the new. We worked hard and the experienced players worked with patience to help develop the younger players. Graduating that senior class has left us with a very, very young team.  There are few with starting experience, but many with athleticism and talent.

SID:  You lost a strong senior class.  How will you replace them, both in play and leadership?

DL:  We brought in good athletes, and have several returning players that will step into positions this year.  Our leadership is still developing, as there are not really any players with the depth of experience needed for it to happen naturally.  In response, we have had a group of players who are all playing equally into the leadership positions from all the classes.

SID:  Wyatt Bollinger (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) and Jacob Durren (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) are your only two returning starters. What expanded roles to do envision for them this season?

DL:  I see Wyatt being one of the most talented setters in the league this year.  He continues to get more talented.  His on-court commitment is also coming through as he emerges as a leader this year.  Jacob is a natural leader and a strong competitor.  His experience last year will lend to confidence on the court.  I see both of them being strong pillars in the program this year.

SID:  Who are your other key returners and what roles do you expect them to play this year?

DL: Josh White (Chesapeake, Va./Bishop Sullivan) and Martin Pou (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite).  Josh is one of the best athletes on the team.  As he develops his control in the air, he will quickly become an impactful player for the program.  Martin is still working through learning his strengths, but his work ethic and attitude are stellar.  I see him working into an impactful player as well as an opposite hitter.

SID:  Tell me a bit about your incoming recruiting class.  First an over-arching comment on the group as a whole, and then mention a few individuals and what roles they might play in their first year?

DL:  This class was a combination of trainable athletes and experienced players. Ben Childers (Chesterfield, Va./Matoaca) will start as one of our most aggressive hitters.  Jack Corl (Glen Allen, Va./Deep Run) will come in starting in the libero position.

SID:  As you enter your third season at EMU, how do you feel about the culture you are building in the program?

DL:  I feel great about it.  This year is one of the most enjoyable coaching experiences I have had.  The guys came in ready to learn, work, and enjoy time with each other on and off the court.  They are constantly developing and looking to the potential we have.  Being as young as we are, there is only room for growth.

SID:  What have you learned about your team through the preseason?

DL:  Not much.  I was sick through most of it.  We definitely need to continue to work on organization, discipline, and endurance of mind through play. 

SID:  What will the strengths of your team be this season?

DL:  Diversity, flexibility, potential.  We have many players who can and will be playing multiple positions.

SID:  Overall general feeling of what 2020 will be for your team?

DL:  Hopeful.  I believe if we can gain confidence in our uniqueness, we could be a pretty impactful team this season.  I expect, if we play the game possible, to be in the top four in the conference.  We are more athletic and have a higher level of potential than most teams, but need to continue to work on our autonomy and IQ.