Whether it had a veteran team with a lot of talent, a young squad with potential or something in between, the Warwick Vets volleyball program always found a way to make the playoffs. Starting in 2005, the Hurricanes were in the postseason for seven years in a row.
After a two-year hiatus, the ’Canes are hoping to find their way back, and they’re hopeful that this will be the year. Vets has a good senior nucleus and some young talent ready to take a step forward after a two-win season in 2013.
“We’re building,” said head coach Jean McGarry. “We had a lot of girls try out. We have some talent coming back and we have some girls who played a lot of volleyball in the off-season, so they’re coming in with more experienced. We’re still young, but we’re working hard.”
When Vets’ playoff streak ended in 2012, it wasn’t a huge surprise. The ’Canes had lost a big senior class from the year before and they were playing in a much tougher Division II landscape, after realignment had brought back Division III. Last year, Vets had more experience and higher hopes, but things never came together. The team finished 2-16, and McGarry could see confidence eroding at every turn.
With just over a week of practice in the books this year, McGarry can see it coming back.
“This year, I have girls working together and it shows every day in practice,” McGarry said. “Our returning girls know what they need to do. The girls who weren’t with us last year are slowly getting comfortable and the other girls are making them feel comfortable. It’s working. It’s been a pleasure so far.”
Vets has four seniors lighting the way in Jess Tyree, Liz Iadevaia, Shelby Mahoney and Liz Kane. Tyree, Iadevaia and Mahoney all saw a lot of time last season.
“Three of them have played a lot and I expect them to take that experience onto the court and show leadership,” McGarry said.
Tyree and Iadevaia have played front row and back row in the past and their experience should help anchor the Vets lineup.
“They’re pretty good leaders and I think they can help the girls move forward with their game play and get past the nerves,” McGarry. “They’re very confident.”
Juniors Marianna Brawn, Samantha Beaufort and Emily Walason were also on the court last season. Sophomores Shannon McCarthy and Arianna Pafume jumped right in as freshmen last year and are ready for more.
“Shannon is one of my strongest players as a sophomore,” McGarry said. “Ari worked really hard to improve her skills.”
Several other players will be pushing for playing time. However the lineup develops, McGarry wants to see a cohesive unit. Vets probably won’t have a powerful attack, but things like serving, passing and defense can become strengths.
“Hopefully they play with more confidence and show more presence on the court,” McGarry said. “I’m hoping that translates into more success with simple things like serving and passing. We’re not going to be a powerhouse offensive team, but we need to be able to control the ball. I’m hoping that experience will create a little more presence.”
And Vets is hoping that, in turn, leads to a lot more success.
“The goal is always playoffs, but we’ll take it one game at a time,” McGarry said. “We just want to keep improve. We’ll bite off a little at a time. Hopefully, that’s the mindset they embrace.”
Vets will visit Pilgrim for an Injury Fund event on Friday at 4 p.m. The regular season begins next Thursday when the ’Canes host Cranston West.