By: Shaela Foster
With a hot start to the season, The University of Tampa women’s volleyball team has bulldozed their way through their competition with an 11-game win streak.
Currently at a 13-1 overall record, the Spartans are one of two undefeated teams left in the conference with a 7-0 conference record.
“Of course, it’s a good feeling to know standing wise we’re on top,” said Mackenzie Dufresne, middle blocker. “The way it feels to us is that we have a big red target on our back because everyone kind of wants us to lose in a sense to knock us off one.”
Many of their games have been on the road. Traveling is not an easy task and takes a toll on the athlete’s body especially having to sit for long periods of time.
“Our kids do it really well, I give them a lot of credit,” said Chris Catanach, head coach. “They work really hard at preparing mentally and physically to play that opponent that day.”
Leadership has been a key component to UT’s success.
“We’ve got some pretty good leadership from Katie McKiel, Melissa Elias, Taylor Fosler, Sorrel Houghton, four seniors that have given us some leadership,” said Canatach. “Leadership can come from actions, how you play and how hard you work. We’ve had a number of kids do that as well.”
The Spartans have accounted for 685 kills this season with 149 of them coming from McKiel. . Freshman Kalli Cors is right behind her with 136 kills, followed by Houghton with 108.
Although UT is undefeated on the road, it isn’t a simple mission to play in someone else’s gym.
When playing Eckerd on their home court earlier in the season, the Spartans went down 2-0 in the opening sets. All odds were pointing against them, but they didn’t stop fighting. The game ended up going to five matches and UT came out on top earning their fifth victory in a row.
“We really try to think of what we’re there for, we represent Tampa when we step anywhere outside of our home gym and we hold that pride close to us,” said Tatyana Lyons, middle blocker. “Going into another team’s gym is a disadvantage but we try to focus on the basics of the game and remember to control what we can and overcome the obstacles.”
In dedication of former volleyball player and alumna, Melissa Vanderhall who passed away in a tragic accident, the Spartans have created a foundation in her name called the Live for 24 Foundation. The mantra for the foundation is, “Cheer for others louder than you cheer for yourself.”
This mantra is something the Spartans have lived by this season knowing that in order for them to continue their win streak they need to support each other just as much as they support themselves.
“I think taking that through the season is going to be such a high key point because we have a tremendous amount of talent on the team this year,” said Dufresne. “The skill level is minimally different but at such a high level it’s unthinkable, in order to win this championship that is going to have to be the mantra we go through.”