Freshmen take over

Patrick Duffy | The Signal

Georgia State women’s volleyball team is having a disappointing season on the court, evident by their 3-15 overall record and 1-5 mark in Colonial Athletic Association play.

But the Panthers hope for a better future as the team features eight freshmen out of 13 players, many of whom have logged significant time on the court this season.

“This season we’re all trying to get down fundamentals and understand how to play GSU volleyball,” freshman Eliza Zachary said.

Zachary, a middle blocker from Bloomington, Minn., has played in every set for the Panthers this season and is fourth on the team with 76 kills.

These young players were brought in to compete and all of them realize they had to grow up quickly on the court. Freshman Dede Bohannon believes that the team has room to grow.

“We know we have potential and we’re trying to reach it,” Bohannon said.  “We don’t look at ourselves as freshmen because we’ve played so long.”

Bohannon, an outside hitter from Lawrenceville, Ga., has appeared in every match this season and ranks third on the team with 102 kills.

Any team that consists of over fifty percent freshmen is going to have its fair share of growing pains.  Adjusting to the college game is tough and that adjustment affects every player differently.

Sydney Hunsley, a freshman from LaVista, Neb., didn’t hesitate when asked about the biggest difference between playing on the college level and playing on the high school level.

“It’s the pace,” Hunsley said.  “It’s a lot quicker.”

Remaining focused both on and off the court is something that can be a challenge for freshmen.  These girls were the best players on their high school and club teams and now they are playing against teams full of other great players.

“In high school and club you just go out and play,” Zachary said.  “Here, our coaches work really hard to get down film and stats for the other team.  So you just study your opponent and you know them like the back of your hand.”

Natalia Nieto, a freshman setter from Puerto Rico, also notices that playing volleyball at the college level comes with a new set of responsibilities.

“It’s more serious than before [high school and club],” Nieto said.  “You have to be focused because this is what is paying for your studies.”

Georgia State’s lone senior, outside hitter Jamiee Freeman, has been the leader that these freshmen needed.  Each one of them credited Freeman with helping them off the court and on the court.

“I really had to take on that leadership role,” Freeman said, “and help them get adjusted to things like expectations.”

Togetherness and team unity are two things Freeman felt would be vital for this team to make progress.  She thought back to her own freshmen year to help her make sure that happened this season.

“We are tight knit family,” Freeman said.   “My freshmen year I didn’t really have that or feel that.  So I really wanted to make that a goal for them [freshmen class] to experience that.”