After a slow start to the 2021 season, Montclair State University’s women’s volleyball team has finally found its footing.
After defeating Kean University in straight sets on Sept. 23, the Red Hawks haven’t looked back as they are currently on a seven-game winning streak, with none of those matches going past three sets.
At the beginning of the season, not many could have predicted the team’s recent success. Montclair State began their campaign with a 2-6 record.
Senior right side Victoria Tennon credits the stunning turnaround to strong leadership from the team’s seniors.
“We started off a little bit slow in the beginning of the season,” Tennon said. “l feel like we have good captains and seniors on the team, so we were able to stay together and lead the younger girls on and off the court.”
So far this season, Tennon has contributed 61 kills, along with 27 digs to the squad. The team’s five seniors have had a tall task, leading a young team that includes nine underclassmen, seven of which are freshman. That guidance seems to be paying off on the court. Despite the slow start, Tennon says the team was able to stay together and keep focused.
“Everyone’s positive, everybody is loud and jumping up and down,” Tennon said. “Everyone is good at being vocal [during games] whether we’re on or off the court. We just have really good chemistry on this team. It just makes it easy to stay positive.”
But what sets the Red Hawks apart is their stellar defense. Montclair State is currently second in blocks (100.5) and digs (64) in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). In a match against Rutgers-Newark on Sept. 28, the defense allowed a mere 18 kills through three sets.
Tennon believes a strong defense makes a huge difference on the court.
“Our defense is very important [to our success],” Tennon said. “I feel like it is one of the most important parts of the game of volleyball. It shows that we are dominant and want to keep that ball on the other side of the court.”
Senior outside hitter Leah Higgins has been key to the Red Hawks’ offensive success, giving the team 139 kills so far this season. She credits the team’s communication, high energy and vocality for the recent string of victories over the last two weeks.
“Everyone just hustles for every ball,” Higgins said. “Everyone’s making a point to get to every ball. We want to come into every single game and make a statement.”
What a statement they have made. The last two games have been won dominantly, with senior outside hitter Carly Waterman leading the way with 11 kills and five aces, meanwhile, Higgins recorded 10 kills and put Montclair State over St. Joseph’s College in straight sets.
Senior setter Delaney St. Pierre recorded 31 assists that match. The Red Hawks allowed only 38 points in all compared to their 70 points scored.
Later that day, Montclair State defeated Neumann University in three sets. The team put up 10 blocks and easily added another win to the streak.
Another factor to consider is the Red Hawks’ focus and determination during practice and training. Higgins emphasized that they do not take practicing lightly, even during a big winning streak.
“We always try to play as tough as we can,” Higgins said. “We put ourselves in high-pressure situations during games so that way we don’t feel the pressure going into a game. We try to keep our mentality in practice sharp and game-like so when we go onto the court we have no surprises.”
Higgins makes it clear that the volleyball team is looking ahead to the second half of the season and thinking about how they can further improve, as the bulk of their conference schedule lies ahead of them.
“We just have to keep communicating,” Higgins said. “We have to keep our energy up this week, be confident in ourselves and our teammates and having the drive and desire to win every single match.”
Montclair State will look to extend their winning streak as three of their next four games will be at Panzer Athletic Center.