By Makenzie Swift, Contributer
The Manhattan College Volleyball team is kicking off its season with a total of nine players, new coaching staff and overall a fresh start.
Coach Miletic rejoins the Jaspers as head coach after serving as an assistant coach from 2014-2016. His first hire, Sara Atai fills the assistant coach position that has remained vacant from 2017-2021.
The team faced many difficulties during the 2021-2022 season, including head coach Lora Sarich Egbert being barred from Draddy Gymnasium due to her vaccination status, and an overall losing record, McKee shares that the new leadership has helped bring back the girls’ eagerness to play.
“I definitely think having a new coach and just a new leadership was just very refreshing, especially since I think the volleyball program has been in quite a low for some time,” said Julieanne McKee, a senior setter on the team.
The team faced multiple injuries in the past few years, creating even more chaos within the program.
“We obviously haven’t had the best luck in the past with either wins or injuries…we just had to face a lot of adversity in the past more so than other teams at Manhattan, so we really just want to work on starting from scratch,” McKee said.
After having multiple players with season-ending injuries, dealing with a lack of coaching and a reported lack of enthusiasm from players, the women hope to use their past challenges to embrace their future success.
“It was basically the past few years that were not great. And after speaking to our players now they really had not the greatest of experiences,” Miletic describes, “Right now it seems that our goal this year is to make the players fall in love with volleyball again.”
COVID was also a challenge for the team, as it gave even more unexpected setbacks that the girls struggled to battle.
“It was the uncertainty and it was constantly just jumping around. Do we have enough girls? When does this girl come back? Are we eligible to play? So not having that uncertainty anymore? is really a game changer for us,” McKee explained.
One of the highest contributing factors to the team’s growth is coach Miletic.
“Not only is he personable, where girls are comfortable being coached by him, are not afraid to speak up to or confide in him, not only does he do that very well but he just boosts morale,” McKee described, “he makes you want to take every ball he makes you want to hit every ball to your best power. It’s not just a coach that will yell at you and lecture you. He kind of just has a way of making everyone want to be playing and he has a way of getting everyone excited.”
It is Miletic’s positive coaching style and radiant personality that makes this season hopeful for the team. Miletic’s ability to return the fun of the sport back to the players not only allows them to have fun but also pushes the girls to play hard. The girls look forward to practice and games every day due to the fact that they trust they will be supported no matter what.
The team has also gained a new assistant coach: Sara Atai. Coach Atai has also been a source of positivity for the players and is a great resource for their playing.
“Having an assistant coach has really helped because for me, personally, her specialty is where my position is,” McKee said. “To be able to have that coaching and be able to talk to a player who once played in my position and can give me feedback has been so great.”
Coach Miletic is aware of the struggles the team faced in the past, and he too plans on trying to start from scratch in order to make MCs’ Volleyball team the best it can be.
“It’s just kind of like the situation we’ve been handed. That being said, yeah, we’ve had to get creative and be able to make sure this season survives and we’re having fun doing it. We’re having a good time,” Atai said.
The coaches want to bring the fun back onto the court for the players this season in order to get themselves back into the game. They are looking to expand the team in the future, as recruiting this year was very difficult.
“The last coaching staff left us with nine players on the roster, which is like a small number of players when other schools have 15 to 20. And then on top of that, sadly, we have a few injuries and it is a tough sport, but luckily we have a smile,” said Miletic.
Having a small number of girls along with many injuries has definitely impacted the team’s performance. Coach Miletic plans on adding more freshmen and hopefully transfer students in the next season in order to gain more players.
“We are going to have six returners, so we are recruiting a big group of players for 2023. The goal is to recruit six or seven new players for 2023,” Miletic said.
Assistant Coach Atai added, “We’re doing our best with what we have, but in the hopes that we can bring some people on for next year.”
Coach Miletic and Coach Atai both remain positive and optimistic about this season.
“We know it’s not the greatest situation right now, because of our injuries. But then all you can do is put a smile on your face and carry on and believe that you can fix it for the future,” Miletic said.
The MC volleyball team is proving its strength by portraying its ability to fight through its challenges. They have faced a lot in the past year and consistently show that they will come back stronger and have a lot of hope for this season.