A new semester is underway and with many new experiences to look forward to for the players on the Montclair State University volleyball team. The team is looking to continue its dominance within the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
Last season, the Red Hawks made it to the NJAC Championship against one of their dreaded rivals, the Rowan University Profs, and it went all the way down to the last set. Unfortunately, the Profs pulled through and won against Montclair State.
In past seasons, the women’s volleyball team has shown its strengths up until the conference championship game, where the team’s weaknesses catch up to them.
The team didn’t need saving but instead needed a fresh start to a new season. And this upcoming season, they look forward to proving themselves to be even better.
Coming into this season, the Red Hawks were selected in second place in the NJAC preseason coaches poll, with Rowan taking the top spot. Stockton University, Kean University and Rutgers University-Camden took the spots behind them.
Head coach Eddie Stawinski, having a strong profile of 12 years as head coach, hopes to have good things come this season with the strong number of newcomers he has on his roster.
Losing a few strong pieces last season, Stawinski is confident in the freshmen to play strong this season after their performance at the Gettysburg Battlefield Classic hosted by Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
“I was impressed this weekend, they did not look like freshmen out there,” Stawinski said. “We were playing teams that had more experience and that were senior driven, but [Montclair State] played so well even through the ups and downs. They seemed very comfortable.”
Finishing the Gettysburg Battlefield Classic with a record of 2-2 for the weekend, they get to start fresh once again heading into their first home tri-match of the season against Wilkes University and Baruch College.
Freshman middle blocker Mia Capriglione was a strong piece this past weekend, switching positions already in her first year with this team. Capriglione’s strongest position is middle blocker, but Stawinski wanted to put one of the newest team members to the test in a not-so-fond position on the right side.
“She was really confident out there,” Stawinski said. “In the match that we had to switch her position, we felt comfortable doing that change.”
Capriglione says the moment caught her by surprise but she was ready for it in the end.
“I was playing timid but I got more comfortable, I just didn’t want to mess up,” Capriglione said. “It was a great experience, I wasn’t expecting to play that much but I’m super glad I got to.”
Capriglione’s opportunity to play right side came after sophomore outside hitter Skye Ramsey came down with an injury that put her on the sideline.
When Capriglione was feeling the pressure on the court, senior middle blocker Gianna Arias was there to lighten up the mood. Arias has been able to influence others on the court to play with full heart and passion, and leave the nerves elsewhere.
“She’s leading a lot by her level of play,” Stawinski said. “She’s very enthusiastic and tries to keep things loose. You have to have that one on the court that can keep everything loose.”
With four years under her belt and the natural title of being a veteran on a team full of underclassmen, Arias is confident in not only what Capriglione can bring to the team but all of the newcomers as well.
“We got a bunch of freshmen, everyone is doing great and they’re going hard,” Arias said. “They are bringing a lot to this team.”
While things are looking bright, the Red Hawks have a championship upset they want to build upon.
For this upcoming season, the freshmen combined with new transfers could be the missing pieces to the puzzle. Although there is still much more to learn as a team and a homestand to look forward to, Stawinski firmly believes that this is a strong part of the process. As they say, pressure makes diamonds.
“The result of 2-2 is good but at the end of the day, it gives us a lot of information [on] where we are right now in the season and where we could go,” Stawinski said. “Communication is going to be key and they’re going to have to learn how to play with each other a little bit more.”
The Montclair State volleyball team will be hosting a tri-match this upcoming weekend at the Panzer Athletic Center, as they look to get an advantage in the win column and gain some more team chemistry.