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Bearcat volleyball hits end of season: Bearcats approach must-win match to qualify for PAC playoffs

By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor

Originally Published October 30, 2023

Volleyball is a game of quick decisions. The back-and-forth nature of the sport gives each team only a handful of seconds to prevent the other team from scoring. Momentum can easily swing in either team’s direction with a couple of well-timed attacks or small errors. This season, the Saint Vincent College (SVC) women’s volleyball team has been on the wrong side of many close sets despite having many talented players on the team.

Kaelyn Staples (#4), Jessica Hughes (#5) and Anna Grandas (#7) celebrate a point. (SOURCE: WATKINS)

“We play these little games to five because that’s essentially what volleyball is,” Nicolena Yanosick, senior business management major, said, regarding team practice. “The whole game is to 25 points, but in between the full set is first to five, first to 10, first to 15, first to 20.”

Luciana Polk, senior health and physical education major, elaborated on the game’s fast pace and the importance of individual player mentality.

“Volleyball is a game of mistakes; it is just how you react and recover from them that creates the overall impact,” Polk said.

After starting the season with a 6-7 nonconference record, the Bearcats won their first two President’s Athletic Conference (PAC) matches against the Geneva Golden Tornadoes and the Thiel Tomcats. Unfortunately, these victories were followed by a 1-6 slide that put SVC in ninth in the PAC standings after being selected to finish sixth in the preseason conference poll.

Seniors Lauren Turkovich (#24), and Nicolena Yanosick (#2), and Lauren Turkovich (#8) were honored before the Oct. 21 match against Waynesburg. (SOURCE: WATKINS)

The single victory in the Bearcats’ rough patch came on senior night against the Waynesburg Yellowjackets. Polk, Yanosick, and Lauren Turkovich, graphic design, studio art, and business administration major, were honored before the match. Polk has had a huge impact on the team this season and is one of the best performing players in the PAC. The outside hitter ranks fourth in points (3.51) and kills (2.99) per set. She is also tenth in service aces per set (0.42). Polk was also named Bearcat of the Week twice and PAC Offensive Player of the Week once. Kaelyn Staples, junior psychology major, is another strong outside hitter for Saint Vincent. Her 3.35 points and 2.86 kills per set rank in the top ten in the conference and boosts the Bearcat offense. Behind this veteran strength, the team is mainly comprised of younger players.

“This year, we have a lot of new faces on the court and many of them are playing major positions for our team,” said Polk. “With having new faces on the court, we must learn and adapt to find ways to create positive chemistry.”

One key newcomer for the Bearcats is freshman psychology major Madeline Eagler. The setter ranks fourth in the PAC in assists per set (7.46).

"From high school to college ball... college is a faster paced game. There is also more strategy involved whether it's what area to serve, or as simple as which hitter should I set and when,” Eagler said.

She has adapted to the difficulty well, earning PAC Newcomer of the Week for her efforts.

There is still a path for the Bearcats to make the six team PAC tournament, but it requires a win in the final regular season game against the Westminster Titans and specific results in other PAC team matchups that do not include SVC.

“Last season... there was an insane upgrade in our mentality, our play, our connection, and our team dynamic,” said Yanosick. “This year we have the same things, but we need to focus on finishing more on the court.”

A strong young core offers a lot of hope for future seasons, but for now the Bearcats will have to play their best in a must-win matchup and hope that luck is on their side.

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