Volleyball sets sights on elusive Sun Belt title in 2019


Redemption is on the mind of the App State volleyball team. Last year, they won the East division of the Sun Belt before falling to Texas State in the championship game.

After falling short in last year’s Sun Belt conference tournament championship, App State volleyball looks to capture redemption in 2019. 

“We’ve been there twice in the five years that we’ve been in the Sun Belt, and I’m sick and tired of being second. I want to win it,” head coach Matt Ginipro said.

The Mountaineers enjoyed a 22-win season in 2018, which led them to conquer the Sun Belt’s East Division and compete for a conference championship. Senior middle hitter Emma Longley was selected to the All-Sun Belt First Team, while junior libero Emma Reilly was awarded Second Team All-Sun Belt honors. 

“We’ve been there twice in the five years that we’ve been in the Sun Belt, and I’m sick and tired of being second. I want to win it.”

— Matt Ginipro

“All the work we put in last year got us that far, but it wasn’t enough,” Longley said. “We just have to keep getting after it every single day, and go even harder than we have in the past.”

While last year’s loss to Texas State in the championship match was devastating, the team now looks to use it as a source of motivation. 

“We watched a video about motivation, and the person who was talking said someone had stolen their bike when they were a kid, and so the team came back with, ‘Texas State stole our bike, and we’ve got to get it back,’” Ginipro said.

Ginipro said he believes one of the major strengths of the team this year is the chemistry and tight-knit relationships his players share. 

“At the end of our preseason, we went off the mountain and got a lake house at Lake Hickory, and we’re all together in one house, all of us, staff included,” Ginipro said. “Those three days were huge. The chemistry is great.”

It’s easy for a team to look ahead to a potential championship rematch with Texas State, but Ginipro said he doesn’t think that’s such a good idea. 

“We’ve got to be thinking about ETSU tomorrow,” Ginipro said. “Then next week, we’ve got to think about Arizona, and Loyola Marymount and Samford. If we keep doing that, what we want to happen will happen in the future.”

App opens the season against nationally-ranked Arizona in the Cactus Classic on Aug 30. The season-opening trip is somewhat of a homecoming for junior middle blocker, Kara Spicer, who hails from Peoria, Arizona. 

“I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see my family, my friends and compete in front of them,” Spicer said. “It’s just really exciting having everyone come see where I’m from, what I came from and my upbringing, so I’m really excited.” 

With three preseason All-Sun Belt selections in Longley, Reilly and Spicer, several key returners, and six newcomers, the Mountaineers have the talent and depth to compete for another shot at the Sun Belt crown this year. For Longley and senior libero Sydney Farthing, this year is the last chance at a title. 

“It’s kind of bittersweet just because I never really thought that I would be a senior,”  Longley said. “I’m approaching it kind of like giving it my all. Not that I haven’t in the past, but it’s like a different type of approach. I’m excited for it, but I’m also wanting to go out giving it all I have.”