It almost seems oxymoronic to have a senior class that lacks playing time in any sport. And yet, APSU volleyball boasts four graduating players who are still figuring out how to function as a team.
Excluding the consistent starting role of outside hitter Brooke Moore, seniors Chloe Stitt, Caroline Waite and Nina Korfhage have only played in an average of 151 sets across their career — less than half the amount that Moore has compiled over four seasons (397).
Log jammed in years past by some of the program’s greatest players in Ginny Gerig, Ashley Slay and Kristen Stucker, last season’s 11-20 mark forced all four into an expanded role from the year prior, revealing their lack of experience in live situations.
The Governors grew from that situation, however, and are now 8-2 through their first 10 matches. According to head coach Taylor Mott, the leadership of the senior class gets the bulk of the credit for such.
“They’ve been awesome,” Mott said. “Last year, a lot of them were fairly new to the floor. Even though they’re not young, they just hadn’t seen a lot of playing experience. I feel like this year that class has really come together. I mean, it’s the backbone of this team.”
Their maturation level on the court is noticeably improved from last season. A fellow classmate’s mentorship has allowed close game situations to not rattle the team as much as it did a year ago.
Moore is the most decorated player on this season’s roster and provides Stitt, Korfhage, Waite and the rest of the roster confidence when dealing with tough moments in-game. The outside hitter has played in every possible contest across her career, including the Govs’ NCAA Tournament appearance her freshman year.
“I definitely think now that we’re a few games in our experience level is up, so that definitely helps us stay in control,” Moore said. “Even in times when we are struggling — especially this senior class — I think we’re good at coming together to keep everyone controlled when things are going tough.”
Moore’s influence on the court has paid off for Stitt, who most recently notched a new career-high in kills during the Governors’ two-game sweep of rival Mu**ay State. The senior earned 26 in Sunday’s match and ranks fourth in the conference with 128 on the season.
“It’s definitely exciting for sure,” Stitt said of the success. “I just kind of take the opportunity and I work hard for it. I have to give a lot of credit to my girls, they really push me to be my best in practice and it definitely shows on the court.”
Waite and Korfhage have also shown strides by breaking their personal bests this season. The former compiled a 13-dig game against Morehead State in February, while Korfhage has already shattered her previous record for digs in a season with 140.
Although three of the four seniors have looked to Moore for confidence on the court this year, that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to mentor in their own way to the underclassmen.
Freshmen Taylor McInerney, Janvier Buggs and Kaylah Jackson all took the court in the team’s most recent contest against the Racers, with McInerney posting a 14-kill performance alongside a season-high .609 hitting percentage.
“I think it’s just creating that atmosphere where it’s OK to make mistakes,” Mott said. “Volleyball is a game of errors, and I think sometimes hitters are crippled by [being] afraid to make errors instead of just being aggressive.
“I think somebody like Chloe, who’s playing the hardest she can every time, I think Taylor maybe looks at that and says ‘I’m OK to do that as well,’ so she can play free and loose and not worry about making errors.”
Despite the fast start, the Governors still trail two undefeated teams in conference. Jacksonville State and MSU have won each of their first 10 games to remain unblemished in the OVC.
They may not be able to win the experience battle between either competitor, but the Govs will continue to rely on the glue that is their senior class to stay afloat against anyone.
“We’re all super close, we’ve all been together for four years now,” Moore said. “We all stayed throughout the four years and we all know how to play around each other. I think we’re really successful with each other.”