(From left to right) Liya Girma, Emma Rivers, Darby Collyear and Jeannette Ashong celebrate a point against SUNY Poly during the Cardinal Classic at Memorial Hall Sept. 2.
By Rebekah Riley
Plattsburgh Cardinals volleyball is back. This season’s roster is full of young women as Head Coach Kelsea Healis returns to her position, naming seniors Payton Zophy and Emma Rivers as captains.
Healis is going into her third year of coaching with the Cardinals. She has set big goals for her team and expects her group of first-year athletes to contribute immediately.
In order for Healis to put together the best team, she looked for players who stood out and showed their passion for the sport.
“What I looked for this season was an athlete that was competitive driven, and somebody that could help push our program to the next level and really get us back into competing and playing at a higher level,” Healis said.
Healis is excited to see this team grow and improve on a 2022 season hampered by injury and a difficult conference.
“I’m excited to see the growth. We’ve been rebuilding for the last few years. Last year we saw a lot of turmoil just with injuries and things like that, and our season did not go the way we planned by any means,” Healis said.
This year is a big year for Zophy. After suffering an injury last year, she’s looking to make a comeback. Zophy has been with the team for four years and has played as an outside hitter and the libero. She was named SUNYAC Defensive Player of the Week, Sept. 3.
Zophy felt rewarded by being named captain.
“It’s rewarding that the whole team looked up to me in that way, and they respected me like that, and saw me as someone who was able to lead the team on and off the court, and try to push everyone to their fullest potential,” Zophy said.
Zophy also said she thinks the team is the best it has been in years, and she hopes to make it to the SUNYAC Finals.
“It would be amazing to play in the finals. It’s kind of like the end all, be all,” Zophy said.
Rivers has been a setter for this team for the last four years, and has been a team captain since she was a sophomore. She led the team in assists last season with 345 and assists per set with 4.11.
This year, there are eight new players from all over the United States: KC Burke, a defensive specialist from Murrieta, California; Darby Collyear, a right side player from Rockwall, Texas; Liya Girma an outside hitter from Sachse, Texas; Katie Salphine, a middle hitter from Le Roy, New York; Katarina Wagner, a middle hitter from Seattle; Iris Mulvey, an outside hitter/right side from Middle Island, New York; Melina Morillo, a right side from The Bronx; and Katie Rachwal, a defensive specialist from Plymouth, Michigan.
Girma said she hopes this year she can stay consistent, and with the support of her team, she knows she’ll be able to reach her goals.
“With Coach and my teammates by my side, I feel like they can hold me accountable to be consistent and stay positive and confident when I play,” Girma said.
Girma is relatively new to the sport. Her dedication and love for the game grew quickly.
“My sister had gotten into volleyball her freshman year, so I started pretty late as well,” Girma said. “She made me want to play volleyball and I definitely thank her for it because I do love the sport and I have a passion for it.”
Healis said she was looking for women who were passionate about the sport, and Girma met those expectations.
This team has six sophomores: Kyleigh Ganz, a setter/right side; Maggie Lyon. an outside hitter; Jeannette Ashong, a middle hitter; Sanaia Estime, an outside hitter; and Bridget Ryan, a defensive specialist.
Four seniors grace the roster this year: Shannon Fitzpatrick, a defensive specialist/libero; Rivers; Zophy; and Lily White, a defensive specialist.
The Cards are currently 4-2. Plattsburgh swept the Cardinal Classic, beating the Russell Sage Gators (5-3) 3-1, Sept. 1 and the SUNY Poly Wildcats (0-6) 3-1 and the Potsdam Bears (1-4) 3-1, Sept 2.
The Cardinals left the Skidmore Classic 1-2. It lost to the Alfred University Saxons (3-4) 0-3, Sept. 8. Then, Plattsburgh beat the Morrisville Mustangs (3-6) 3-0 and lost to the Skidmore Thoroughbreds (4-4) 2-3, Sept. 9.
Plattsburgh will next participate in the North Country Classic, where it will play three games over a span of two days. Today, Sept. 15, the Cardinals will take on the Hilbert Hawks (3-4) at 6 p.m., and tomorrow, Sept. 16, it will play the Wells Express (3-5) at noon and the Canton Kangaroos (1-6) at 4 p.m.
SUNYAC play begins Sept. 29, when the Cardinals visit the Brockport Golden Eagles (2-6).