Cal State Fullerton women’s volleyball had a rough 2016 season, ending with a record of 6-24. The Titans were also picked to finish last in the Big West 2017 Preseason Coaches Poll, but they aren’t letting either dull their enthusiasm for the upcoming campaign.
“Personally, I think we could end top four or more. We’re more than capable this year. We have a lot of intense talent. The freshman are great. The transfers are great,” said junior outside hitter Madeline Schneider said.
Titans Head Coach Ashley Preston said she didn’t see the ranking as a “shock,” and that she can also see some positives to the team being overlooked.
“It doesn’t really phase me. It is what I expected it to be,” Preston said. “I like being an underdog, it makes more movement.”
The Titans’ 2-1 start to the season saw them beat Fairleigh Dickinson University and Bryant University.
Their first loss to Drake University during their season-opening Titan Tournament has done nothing to dampen their spirits.
The Titans’ main goal this season is to aim for the Big West title, a far cry from the many hardships they faced last season, one being accountability within their team.
However, as their summer training progressed and preseason began, the Titans said that they have come together and changed each other’s attitudes.
“Last year, we let way too many things slide,” Schneider said. “One thing we’re working on is progressive talk.”
As the team enters the 2017 season, they are focused on strengthening their bonds.
“We really put a focus on changing the culture and changing our mindset as a team and what we are going to do to make ourselves better, and we’ve done a lot of different things. We started traditions and we started different ways of communicating,” said sophomore setter Nastassja Bowman.
One of the new traditions the team started was playing one specific song — a song they won’t reveal to the media — in their locker room before every match. The team allows themselves to let loose during the song to release any nerves they have and increase their energy before the first set. The Titans have also agreed they will never superstitiously blame the song for the outcome of any of their matches.
“It holds us accountable this year, and makes sure that we aren’t blaming other situations. It’s us at the end of the day, to win or lose a game,” Schneider said.
The Titans demonstrated all their hard work from summer training in their first season game against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights by leading their first set in the match with 17 kills.
The Knights upped their offense midway through the second set. However, this did not set the Titans back. They were able to regain their momentum to finish the first two sets before ultimately ending with a 3-0 win.
“We played as a unit and as a team, and we played with a lot of communication and energy. That’s all I wanted to see in this first game,” Bowman said
The Titans faced a new level of competition as they entered their second match against the Drake Bulldogs.
The Titans fell behind in the first set of the match, 25-20, but bounced back and won the next two. Drake then returned the favor, sweeping the final two sets to take a 3-2 victory.
“It was kind of our first little taste in a five-set intense match. We made a lot of errors. We kind of took our foot off the gas pedal,” said junior left outside hitter Cady Francis.
In its final match of the tournament, Fullerton was able to rebound from its only loss, dominating in a 3-0 sweep over the Bryant Bulldogs.
“Each person wrote, yesterday after our match, on the board what we’re going to do for our team, and I think each person whole heartedly worked on that during our match,” said freshman libero Savahna Costello.
This is just the beginning of Fullerton’s season and the Titans say they’ll continue to rely on their bonds and accountability as they try to reach their lofty goals.
“We’re really just going hard and focusing on the simple things. We go back to our cues if we mess up,” said sophomore middle blocker Aniya Henry.