POWHATAN – New head varsity volleyball coach Cindy Bryant expects her Powhatan Indians to surprise everybody.
“Everybody thinks: we graduated that strong group of six seniors – and this definitely will be a rebuilding year – but these girls are coming in, they’re ready to work hard, and I think we’re going to take everybody by surprise with how well they work together,” Coach Bryant said.
Without doubt, the 2019 Powhatan Volleyball unit is young. But it’s a unit with a lot of young potential.
“We’re really bottom-heavy, but we’re excited because that’s how you build a program towards the future – just having the young athletes coming in that are performing well,” Coach Bryant said.
Senior outside hitter Sierra Ellison has seen that her younger teammates have a lot of energy; they’re “eager to play and love being around the seniors…and getting experience,” she’s observed.
“It’s a lot of new players, so getting them used to playing at this type of level is going to be fun,” Ellison said, “and just getting them exposure to different types of playing than what they’re used to.”
All of the new girls are “super nice” – added junior setter McKenzie Goacher – “and they really do love volleyball.”
“They strive to get better every day,” Goacher said, “and it pushes me to get better…it’s a great atmosphere…”
The team’s five sophomores will help comprise the defensive base, with Allie Dulio and Kendall McMullin anchoring the defense as the Liberos.
“I really like – getting a good dig…It feels good when you can pass a good pass like that,” Dulio said.
“Getting hit at…you know even if you mess up, you have your Libero helping you up, always there for you,” McMullin said.
The team’s setting core will also be young, as Goacher and sophomore Bryson Amorese look to factor into a 6-2 rotation as the setters.
“Being a setter is tough because the hitters rely on you to get a good set to get a kill,” Goacher said, “but they’re all really sweet; if you have an off set, they’re like, ‘Oh, you got it next time…’ They’re overall really just encouraging to make me better and it’s great.”
Dulio also praised her teammates as being really supportive.
“We all cheer each other on,” Dulio said. “Even if we mess up, we’re all there for each other.”
The Indians will feature two senior power hitters in six-foot Ellison and Star Bryant, as well as several strong junior hitters including Natalie Mueller.
Ellison said they’ve been working a lot on communicating during practice; she also spoke to wanting to focus on consistency, which she expects to be strong a couple games into the season.
In addition to featuring several new players under a new head coach, Powhatan will also take on a new-look schedule with the shift to the Chesterfield-heavy Dominion District, which features programs like Cosby, Cosby and Powhatan’s Region 4B foe Monacan. But with Powhatan’s proximity to its new district opponents, there’s an added layer of anticipation.
“These are girls that these girls rub shoulders with year-round – in shopping malls and club season and all that because we live so close now, versus having to drive an hour-and-a-half to opponents [in the Jefferson District] that you’re never going to see except during fall ball,” Coach Bryant said. “It’s fun – we’re excited about the rivalries that we’ll help to create, and just the ability to rub up against the Richmond elite teams and showcase our skills against them.”
Ellison and Goacher are looking forward to playing Cosby – one of Goacher’s club ball teammates just so happens to play for the Titans – and Dulio and McMullin are looking forward to facing Midlothian, because when it comes to facing the Trojans, “it’s always a good game,” McMullin said.
While Powhatan Volleyball is looking once again to go as far as it can, the team is concentrated on the culture component – on striving to develop an understanding of what makes great teammates, because – in the long term – that understanding helps develop winning teams, Coach Bryant pointed out.
“I think the wins are going to come as we do that,” she said.
The coaches have been excited to see how quickly the players have jumped on board with where the coaching staff wants to head the program, and how excited the players are themselves about where the team’s trying to go.
“I’m really excited to be with Coach Bryant,” Goacher said smiling. “It’s really exciting to learn her ways of being as a team and culture. I’m really excited to…run new sets and just excited to play with new girls and learn from them.”
“We expect great things this season,” Coach Bryant said, “but we’re expecting even greater things in the next few seasons to come.”