The Green Bay Phoenix volleyball team believes it has an edge this season over other teams in the Horizon League that could take it all the way to the NCAA.
This season Green Bay Head Coach Debbie Kirch tailored down the scouting reports, resulting in no freshman on the team.
“It’s a really good advantage for us,” said Carmen Leitermann, junior middle blocker. “We were able to start out our preseason not going back to teaching everybody what our program is about. We now get to get into our normal flow.”
Leitermann, according to Kirch, is having a good season and is one of the many players on the team who stands out. Others, such as sophomore outside hitter Lyndsay Zabkowicz and junior libero Brittany Groth, are making quite an impact.
Kirch also noted Groth has come a long way the last couple of weeks and has been a stand-out for their team defensively. Groth received Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 26, her second award in her college career.
“If I want to get an award like this, I need everyone on the team behind me,” Groth said. “Working as an individual isn’t going to get me anywhere because it doesn’t matter if I’m making good plays if they aren’t.”
Groth leads the communication in the back row and is the leader of the team’s defensive core. According to Kirch, different players have been stepping up at different times depending on the match.
Senior captain Abbey Gitter had 15 kills Sept. 27 against Chicago State and sophomore Leah Poel lead the offense with 46 assists. The Phoenix won the non-conference match 3-1.
The Phoenix holds an overall standing of 5-10 and are 1-2 in conference.
“When you look at our conference matches, we’ve played well, especially offensively,” Kirch said. “The team and the numbers we’re putting up offensively are definitely putting us in a position to win matches. Defensively, we just have to be more consistent. We had a really good defensive effort against Valparaiso Sept. 23, but then Saturday our defense took a step backward. We’re just looking for that consistency.”
According to Groth, the team’s chemistry plays a large role in winning matches.
“Just having everybody know what other people’s tendencies are helps,” Groth said. “We haven’t really had a set line-up, so when you’re put on the court with someone you’re not use to, you still know them and you know what they’re doing.”
Kirch noted the chemistry on the team this year is good. Last year, the Phoenix worked on team bonding exercises, but this season is different. The team focuses more on one-on-ones and getting to know individuals instead of the team collectively.
Groth said the entire team stayed in Green Bay this summer, leaving plenty of time for bonding in the offseason, but the team does a lot together during the season, as well. Such activities include team dinners before games, movie nights and hanging out.
The team bonding helps both on and off the court, allowing players to really get to know one another. Building chemistry gives the team a better understanding of each other and ways to get each other motivated for the next match.
“A lot of the motivation does come from our coaches, but at the same time, a lot of it is basically on us,” Leitermann said. “We have to get each other excited for the games.”
The Phoenix’s goals for this season are simple. The team wants to go all the way and make it to the NCAA.
“I hope we pick it up the next few matches and start getting on a winning streak,” Leitermann said. “That way we can get to the top of the Horizon League and make our way through the tournament.”