While not as extreme as the typical sports curse, the senior core of the William and Mary volleyball team has certainly been haunted by a curse of its own: the Curse of the CAA Championship.
For three straight years, the Tribe has coasted through regular season play and earned a spot in the conference tournament. But despite a variety of different players, schemes and opponents, the College has lost in the first round each time, including a 3-0 loss to Virginia Commonwealth last year.
This season, however, the College and its seniors are determined to break that streak and leave Williamsburg with a CAA championship banner.
“Our goal is to finish in the top four of the conference, go to the CAA tournament and win it,” senior setter Cassie Crumal said.
Despite being ranked fourth in the CAA preseason rankings after an 18-11 record and a 10-4 conference mark last season, the squad feels poised for a breakout year thanks largely to the offensive improvement it has shown during preseason workouts.
“We are as strong an offensive team as I can remember in William and Mary history because we have six or eight hitters who can put it away,” Head Coach Melissa Shelton ’91 said. “We have a lot of options, and it is nice to have a lot of depth. The hard part for the coaching staff has been who to put where because so many of our players are multifaceted.”
After averaging 12.4 kills, 11.4 assists and 1.5 aces per game last year, this year’s offensive unit, guided by Crumal and senior all-CAA hitter Erin Skipper, hopes to improve through its depth and versatility.
“I think this year our coaches are looking for a quicker offense, a lot of up-tempo play, getting our middles involved and getting quicker balls,” Crumal said. “I think, offensively, we are a threat because we can run quickly. Our outsides are also coming back too, so that’s huge.”
Defensively, the College lost several top defensive threats to graduation, but believes an increased emphasis on blocking and technique will aid the Tribe’s younger defenders.
“I feel like, defensively, we’ve done so much work on defensive movements, blocking in the backcourt and making that drop step,” senior midfielder Ginny Bray said. “We have been really working hard to go after every ball and be the best defensive team in the conference.”
Whether or not the College attains its goal of conference supremacy, Shelton believes the Tribe will benefit from the leadership provided by the team’s strong — and motivated — seniors.
“We have a leadership trio in Ginny, Cassie and Erin,” Shelton said. “This is their fourth season, they are just great people, they have all had a lot of playing time, they all just know what it takes to win and they have the respect of a lot of the girls on this team and the coaching staff. They’ve done a great job of meeting our freshman class and keeping our sophomores on task.”