Special. That's how Keene State College head volleyball coach Bob Weiner describes his team this year. The Owls are 16-2 after Wednesday night's 3-0 win over Emmanuel College, one short of the team's win total in all of 2016. The team is led this year by their sole senior Rachel Lamica, who this season became the fifth player in program history to reach 1,000 kills and is now looking to the second half of the season.
"You watch my team and it's magical what's going on with those girls," said Wiener. He says the team's success this year comes from their tight bond with one another. Weiner, who has been coaching for 31 years, says that the key to success for these girls is to work as one unit. Speaking about Lamica he said she chooses to lead by example. "She comes to practice with the mentality that somebody's going to take my job," to push both herself and her teammates.
Lamica said she feels like "the most nervous person there," most games, but doesn't let that show. She said that her strategy going into games is to set goals for herself and the team, regardless of who or where they are playing, and to play "point by point." Lamica echoed her coach in saying that her team's success comes from being close with one another.
Bailey Wilson, a first-year player says that one of the team's strengths this year is versatility. Wilson said the team "can have a really quick offense or a really slow offense, we can move our defense around a lot, and we have a lot of players who can fulfill more than just their role." She thinks this multifaceted nature has contributed to the team's strong play this year.
Wilson also said that the leadership of players such as Lamica, and the organization they bring to the team plays a big part in their success. For Lamica's part, her mentality is to "just smile through everything."
Weiner noted that she is a player who lets her play speak for her. Weiner said Lamica is "an assassin," who even is always looking to pick apart the opposition's defense. This was particularly evident in the team's recent game against No. 14 MIT. Despite the team losing, Lamica had 16 kills and two service aces, and was smiling like "I'm gonna get you guys."
For her part, Lamica said she learned a lot from the recent losses and has come away with an idea of what she needs to do to make the team better. Wilson also said she thinks the team grew after the recent losses. She notes that "we got back in the gym a lot more focused," and that the end of the win streak might be a blessing in disguise.
Weiner said that the addition of Wilson, a freshman setter, has helped the whole team offensively and Lamica particularly a lot this year. He says that Lamica used to worry where the set would be, but now knows it's going to be in a good spot each time.
Weiner also said that many players on the team look to Lamica as a role model, but he reminds them that "Rachel wasn't always Rachel, Rachel was a silly freshman," and that if the newer players listen to the coaches and work they can get elevate their game just as high.
Speaking on Lamica's growth as a player, Weiner used the analogy of a toolbox. He says when she first came to KSC "all she had was a hammer," but now she has many tools to score. Weiner notes that "she can do things athletically that other kids just can't do."
This year Weiner, Lamica, and Wilson all said they have their eyes set on a long postseason. "Moving forward," she said "We are ready to win."
(Written by KSC Sports Information Intern Simon Burch)