The University of Indianapolis Volleyball Team is taking big strides this season. Led by Head Volleyball Coach Jason Reed, the team has been ranked nationally for the first time since 2014 and rose to No. 18 in the AVCA Division II Coaches Poll before falling down to No. 25 later, according to UIndy Athletics. Reed said he attributes the team’s success so far to hard work and the relationships amongst team members.
“I think that in the past few weeks, our team has done a really nice job of coming together, spending some time working on relationships and building those relationships, which I think does help in terms of the wins and losses,” Reed said. “There’s a trust factor that is developing that I think you can see within our play.”
According to Reed, the team’s goal in a normal season would be making it to the NCAA tournament. But due to the tournament’s cancellation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reed said the girls are putting all of their focus into winning the GLVC tournament. While practice will take this team to the top, Reed said coming together is important for achieving that goal.
“The more important piece is that every day we come in and we work on our culture, getting just a little bit better,” Reed said. “So we’ve been spending time both in practice, out of practice, as a group and as individuals trying to work on getting to know each other a little bit better. In a time like now where everything’s done via Zoom and that human connection piece is less and less, we’re trying to really make it a point safely, obviously, but to try and make sure we’re connecting. Trying to learn each other a little bit better.”
Freshman setter Natalie Thom has been an important asset to the team, leading with 132 assists so far this season, according to UIndy Athletics. Thom said she feels blessed to play despite the pandemic while other collegiate teams in the division do not have the same opportunity.
According to Thom, the seniors on the team have been a big factor in their success. Thom said middle blocker Emily Ellis and outside hitters Katie Furlong and Taylor Jacquay have been leading the women every step of the way. Those seniors are not the only leaders for the team, but they lead in the stat sheet with Furlong having 74 kills and leading the team, Jacquay having 71 digs and Ellis having 4 kills so far this season
“I feel like Emily [Ellis] especially has done a good job coming back and leading the team and being super vocal,” Thom said. “Taylor [Jacquay] does a very good job bringing us all together and keeping us focused. Of course, everyone loves Katie [Furlong]. She’s been super helpful on and off the court, scoring points, bringing us close together. All the seniors, I feel like they’ve done a really good job working with us.”
While the team is climbing the rankings, the women are not letting their victories or losses get the best of them. The team’s current record is 5-5. The team opened the season with a win over the University of Illinois-Springfield before dropping their next two games before bouncing back into a three game win streak.. Thom said the team is focusing on one game at a time.
“I think for us we’re not as focused on where we’re placed overall … but getting better each day and coming into practice and not focusing on the very end. ‘Who is the next team that we’re playing? Who are we facing next?’” Thom said. “I think that is where our focus is, not necessarily all over the place. We’re all super excited about that. And that’s really cool. It’s super motivating too, to even see that we’re able to accomplish something so big, but, again, staying focused and not losing sight of the next game and the next match that we’re playing.”
Reed said that, most importantly, he is proud of everything the team has accomplished so far this season, despite the numerous obstacles because of the pandemic.
“I think that what we’re doing is unbelievable,” Reed said. “We’re finding a way to play amidst a pandemic. We’re finding a way to play [at] a really, really high level, amidst an incredible amount of barriers and limitations and distractions and other obstacles. And through all of that, we’re finding a way to be a darn good volleyball team.”