The Harding University volleyball team has been on a winning streak for the last six games, a huge feat with a team made up of mostly freshmen. These six victories were not only wins, but full sweeps in just three matches.
The 2019-20, 16 player team is made up of eight freshmen and no seniors. Freshman Logan Smith, who has the most kills for the season, said this is because of the large senior class that graduated last year.
“With the large number of freshmen on the team, including myself, preseason was a learning curve for everyone,” Smith said. “Once we really began to mesh and get more comfortable with the upperclassmen, the dynamic changed, and we really became unified as a group.”
Because of the team’s youthfulness, the dynamic is energetic, and everyone seems excited and anxious to get going and compete at the collegiate level, according to freshman Kelli McKinnon. She also said the newness of the players brings in unexpected changes, which she believes really keeps the team on their toes and pushing to work harder and do better.
“We continue to play with purpose,” Smith said. “Intentionality with every drill in practice and for every point in the game is important to push the team toward success.”
McKinnnon said, “Not only is the team brimming with talent, but also with character. She believes that on top of potential and talent, the girls trust each other well and work well together as a team.
“It’s such a blessing to be a part of such an amazing program that doesn’t focus solely on volleyball, but also on us as people,” McKinnon said.
Head Coach Meredith Fear attributed their winning streak to not only finding ways to score points and lessen errors, but also to the passion the younger players have for the game.
“They work really hard and have a strong hunger to get better,” Fear said. “It’s definitely a different environment from the one we’ve had the last few years, but I’m really enjoying it.”
Fear also said a big part of the team this year is managing expectations. Because this is a younger team, they don’t know the league as well as some of her past teams.
She encourages the players to stay humble and continue with the hunger to improve, with some tougher matches coming in the next few weeks.
“A volleyball program that strives for greatness must have growth as their mindset,” Smith said. “We learn from our mistakes and hold each other to a high standard. Our winning streak stems from playing as a team rather than 16 individuals.”
The team’s overall record for the season is 15-7 with several upcoming games in the next few weeks before the Great American Conference Championship Tournament in Hot Springs, Nov. 21 – 23.