Women’s Volleyball: New coach and new culture change

Womens Volleyball Head Coach Josh Higby discusses strategy with players during a home game.

Laurel Simer

Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Josh Higby discusses strategy with players during a home game.

Matthew Robinson, Staff Writer

As the Utica College women’s volleyball team approaches the midpoint of the season, new head coach Josh Higby has already accumulated more wins (5) with the team this season than the coach from the last two seasons combined (3). 

Although new to the coaching staff, Higby is familiar with Utica College as he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the college. Higby also played on the men’s lacrosse team during his time tenure as a student-athlete. 

Coming in as a new head coach can put a lot of pressure on someone who must get familiar with the players and try to build a long-lasting relationship. However, Higby recognizes that there is a lot of support at UC. 

“Utica College has an outstanding network ranging from the administration to the coaches and players,” Higby said. “For example, the players are learning new cues and a new system, which is not easy to change at first. We have a solid group of athletes with character who are willing to learn and their improvement can be seen in a short period of time.”

Improving as a team is a huge priority, especially when there is a new head coach. 

“With there being a new head coach I’ve noticed a change in the atmosphere and drive to want to be better as a team,” senior outside hitter and defender Kurstan Martin said. “When we are practicing, we put in all the effort and energy we have to give. We are always looking to improve our skills and get better individually as a team.”

Gaining better knowledge of the sport from a different perspective is important and has likely made an impact on the team’s successful run so far this season. Junior outside hitter Eleanor Cepiel said every member of the team has adjusted well. 

“The difference between this year and past years is we practice how we play,” Cepiel said. “Keeping our practice competitive has carried over to the gameplay. We have gone back to the basics of volleyball and keep building from there, which has immensely helped our volleyball IQ.” 

Having fun and playing are two of the most important elements of participation. Last season, COVID-19 limited the team to only having five matches (1-4). This season, the team tries not to take anything for granted. 

“As a team, we are excited to play and have fun because we never got the chance last season due to COVID restrictions,” Martin said.  “As a senior, I look forward to it being my last season. I look forward to every game and practice and never take it for granted. As a walk-on, I never thought I would be able to grow as much as I have as a player and as an individual. I look forward to the rest of the season and experiencing it with such a great group of women who make it much more exciting and special.”

Heading into Friday and Saturday’s matchups versus Empire 8 foes Elmira College and Alfred University, the Pioneers look to carry their momentum after winning two of their last three matches. Both games will be played at the Harold T. Clark Athletic Center, with the game vs. Elmira starting at 6 p.m. and the game on Saturday vs. Alfred starting at 3 p.m.