“Control what you can:” App State volleyball makes the most of each opportunity

App+State+volleyball+has+dealt+with+a+lot+so+far+in+2020%2C+and+the+team+is+grateful+for+what+they+do+have.+%22I+just+want+to+remember+this+season+and+be+thankful+for+the+opportunities+I+have%2C%22+senior+Grace+Morrison+%28above%29+said.+

Andy McLean

App State volleyball has dealt with a lot so far in 2020, and the team is grateful for what they do have. “I just want to remember this season and be thankful for the opportunities I have,” senior Grace Morrison (above) said.

Dan Davidson, Associate Sports Editor

Coming off an offseason that has been anything but typical, App State volleyball heads into the 2020 season with high hopes.

“We want to win as many matches as we can,” head coach Matt Ginipro said. “We already know that we’re going to be playing in the conference tournament regardless of our record, so let’s just be really good as many times as possible.”

Before the Mountaineers started their season, numerous matches were postponed or canceled due COVID-19, and the team wondered if they would even have a season at all. With questions regarding social inequality, if classes will be moved online or remain in-person, the upcoming election, and many others, Ginipro and his staff have altered how they lead their team in an attempt to avoid adding stress on their players. 

“A big change for what we’re doing is what we’re doing in the gym. We’re playing a lot more,” Ginipro said. “I’ve normally been a coach that we do a lot of technical training and then we play a little bit, but we’ve basically flipped that. They’ve enjoyed it, it’s been great.”

The irregular offseason also impacted the team’s opportunities for building chemistry. In contrast to last year, the team was not able to spend time together in a house at Lake Hickory, strengthening chemistry and friendships. 

“Our team did a really good job of … constantly communicating with each other over the offseason,” Ginipro said. “Not planned, but a pandemic made us also create a bubble. So, pretty much when (the players) did come into town, it was almost like we were in our own little lake house anyway.”

One of the most challenging aspects of the season, though it hasn’t even started, is canceled matches. After the season-opening series against Georgia Southern was postponed due to coronavirus cases on App State’s team, the matches had to be postponed again because of Georgia Southern’s new cases. 

“Like Matt (Ginipro) always talks about, ‘control what you can,’” senior libero Emma Reilly said. “As much as it’s not ideal, you just have to roll with the punches and keep taking care of what we can take care of.” 

Heading into the 2020 season, Reilly was voted the preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s 12 head coaches. The Illinois native racked up 1,456 digs through her first three years, putting her at fifth in program history. She was also named to the all-Sun Belt First Team last year after finishing second in the conference in total digs with 550. 

“That was really exciting because that’s obviously a goal of mine this season,” Reilly said. “I was really excited about that, but I’m really just focused on doing what I need to do to get that at the end of the season.”

Fellow senior Grace Morrison is entering the final year of her Mountaineer career. As a junior last year, she appeared in all 30 matches and tallied a career high 158 kills. More than any other particular part of her game, Morrison has worked on her consistency and intention towards the game during the offseason. 

“We had our individual meetings with Matt (Ginipro), and I was telling him that I just want to be consistent,” Morrison said. “I want to be a presence that has to be felt on the court. That takes every single day showing up and being intentional with listening to what the coaches have to say, receiving feedback, and then applying the feedback.”

Senior middle blocker Kara Spicer also earned preseason all-Sun Belt honors along with Reilly, marking the second consecutive season the duo has earned preseason All-Sun Belt recognition. The 6-foot-2 senior was named to the all-Sun Belt second team in 2019 after leading the Mountaineers in blocks with 102. 

At the end of the season, whenever that may be, the Mountaineers will graduate one of the most achieved classes in program history. Lexi Kohut, Morrison, Reilly and Spicer will conclude their careers in black and gold after combining for numerous individual records, victories and Sun Belt awards. 

“It’s a pretty amazing class. I’ve only coached one other class that’s similar to these four. That group of four were some of the best volleyball players that have ever played here,” Ginipro said. “The four of them are just amazing leaders.”

As the end of her time in Boone draws nearer, Morrison is appreciating each day the best she can. 

“I’m realizing that all things really do come to an end,” Morrison said. “Every single day brings some sense of value and some sense of joy that needs to be acknowledged. I just want to remember this season and be thankful for the opportunities I have.”

The Mountaineers opened their season on Oct. 9 and 10 with three losses to South Alabama. App State next takes on Georgia State in the Holmes Convocation Center in a three-match series on Oct. 23 and 24.