After last weekend’s win against Arlington, volleyball head coach Matt Ginipro called the team perfect.
“As much as I hate using the word perfect, we were relatively perfect,” Ginipro said with a laugh.
Now, they didn’t win each set 25-0, so technically they weren’t exactly perfect. But, they were relatively free from flaws or defects, winning their sets 25-12, 25-13, and 25-8 in a dominant showing at home.
App State volleyball is currently 14-4 overall and 7-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. The only other team with a better record in the conference is Arkansas State, who is ranked No. 18 in the nation and is 8-0 in Sun Belt play.
When it comes to the formula that equates to such dominating results for Appalachian, it is made up of teamwork and individual expertise. In the conference, App State runs the leader boards in several different categories. They are No. 1 in assists and kills, No. 2 in digs, and fourth-ranked in hitting percentage.
Individually, Mountaineer names are practically glued to the charts. When it comes to hitting percentage, middle blockers Ashton Gregory, ranked first, and Cassidy Stephenson, ranked fifth, are no stranger to the Sun Belt leader boards.
Outside hitters Jess Keller and Emily Corrigan are the first and second, respectively, for kills in the Sun Belt. Libero Meghan Mahoney is fifth in digs. And last but not least, arguably the best setter in the Sun Belt, Paige Brown, is No. 1 in assists for the conference with a whopping 784 so far this season.
Ginipro said the chemistry on the court this season stems from the fact they have kept much of the same team from last season, as App State only lost four seniors from last season.
“It’s pretty much the same team on the court,” Ginipro said. “We’re more consistent. Our first ball contact is significantly better.”
He also went on to say each player has continued to get better, noting that Brown has done nothing but improve, and outside hitters Corrigan and Keller make up a fire power that is huge for the team.
Everything about this team has seemed to have progressed. Brown, Corrigan and Keller each individually noted that having a more challenging schedule early on has helped them figure out ways to win even now.
“I think that’s been giving us a lot of confidence, knowing that we can just not play well and still find ways to win,” Keller said. “I think that this team knows and has confidence that something really special could happen this year. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind and they have to come in and treat every day like it’s the championship game.”
Keller also said something that has made her a better player throughout the season is watching film and getting extra reps outside of practice.
Bettering herself not only helps out individually, but it helps out the entire team as well. Brown said that she knows she can set anyone this year and they can get a kill.
When everybody is “on” – as these three seniors put it – everything goes their way. Brown has been named Sun Belt Setter of the Week five times this year and says playing more relaxed and enjoying the game more has helped her progress throughout the year.
Corrigan considers this team to be the best she’s ever played for.
“We’re all on a mission and it speaks through the four seniors this year,” Corrigan said.
However, the one question nobody could answer, not even Ginipro, was what doesn’t work. Everything seems to go the Mountaineers’ way but there has to be a flaw somewhere. The most common answer amongst the group wasn’t a specific point in their game but instead how they all come together. Ginipro described it as being a family culture. They are able to joke with each other, hold each other accountable, and come together as something more than just a team.
That something more is a family. And that family, at least to Appalachian, is perfect.
Story by: Noah Gerringer, Intern Sports Reporter