By Angelina Perez, Asst Features Editor & Web Editor
After three consecutive wins, the Manhattan College women’s volleyball team sat down with the Quadrangle. It reflected on their past season of losses and how they plan on taking their recent wins against Marist, Siena and Stonehill to finish the season stronger than ever.
Sophomore political science major Sarah Emmons has played the setter position since she was thirteen. The adjustment of coming to play at college has brought development in both her skills on the court and her personal life.
“Freshman year was a complete adjustment coming from high school and club volleyball to the big leagues with adults who have more of a drive and a more competitive environment,” Emmons said. “It was an adjustment period and I think I’ve grown a lot in the past few years.”
Emmons was able to reflect on not only her progress throughout her volleyball career but her team’s as well, as they entered a new season with a different roster and mindset.
“We struggle a bit with the roller coaster effect, which is just highs and lows of energy competitiveness and aggression,” Emmons said. “I think that definitely shows how close and supportive we are of one another which contributes to our strength as a team and our mentality.”
Dominique Velarde is pursuing her MBA in organizations markets and sustainability here at MC after previously playing at Southern California during her undergraduate. She said she instantly found a family and connection in the MC volleyball community.
“I’m originally from Northern California, specifically the Bay Area region, and I moved to southern California for college,” Velarde said. “When I was looking at schools for my grad season, I really wanted to venture out of California and look at different regions elsewhere and really just find a program that was focused specifically on culture and just building a legacy within, so I think that’s where I was drawn to Manhattan.”
Emmons and Velarde agreed on their game against Qunipiac being the kick-off of their season. “Quinnipiac was a very transformative game that helped us believe we can win and that we’re capable of taking down teams that are at the top of our conference,” Velarde said. “It was a very important game for our growth and just recognizing how far we’ve come as a team from preseason to now.”
Assistant coach Sarah Atai shared her history with head coach Mauro Miletic and their journey from coaching the same travel volleyball club to coaching at a collegiate level.
“Last year, when [Miletic] was offered the head coach job, and I was working remotely, he asked me if I wanted to be the assistant coach, and I was like, ‘Sure, he’s funny, we’re going to have fun and coach volleyball,’” Atai said. “We entered into a little bit of craziness, but honestly, it’s been nice having a friend as the partner of coaching.”
Miletic started as the assistant coach of the men’s volleyball team of Baruch College when he moved to New York from Puerto Rico 10 years ago. He was hired as an assistant coach in 2014 and left in 2017. In 2023, he was offered the head coach position here at MC.
“I lived in a building next to Manhattan College when I was working with Baruch College, and back then, I didn’t even know we were division one. Where [Atai] and I are coaching, we had a coach who played for Manhattan College and informed me they did not have an assistant coach and scheduled a meeting with the head coach at the time.”
When asked what the most significant turning point from last year to this for the volleyball team, Miletic told the Quadrangle it all revolved around their team numbers.
“Last year when Sarah and I joined, we had nine players on the roster with a bunch of positions not having players,” Miletic said. “We had to borrow basketball and lacrosse players so that we could play the game. I think we might have had one or two games that we had six volleyball players on the court at all times.”
“We were finding our identity at the beginning of the season,” Atai said. “We had so many new people and just adjusting. If you compare where we are now to the beginning of preseason, it’s so much calmer, and that’s how we want them to play volleyball. Yes, we want them to have high energy and be excited when we get those awesome kill blocks. Still, if we can continue just to be level-headed and everyone knows their role, then that’s when I think we’ll be successful as coaches, and that is not necessarily for this season.”
“Our first win was at home against Central Connecticut and was just what we needed,” Miletic said. “Leading up to that first win, I was telling the girls how easy it can be to go down on yourself and feel bad when you don’t get a win.”
Emmons brought home the win for the women’s volleyball team during their match against Central Connecticut, with her final serve bringing the score to 27-25.
“We want to build the infrastructure around volleyball,” Miletic said. “Up until now, volleyball never had a locker room ever since the program started in the 70s. We have one now we are trying to fix so the girls have a place where they can watch TV, read a book and reconnect with alumni to install a program that eventually they can help us out.”
Miletic and Atai both hope the MC community will continue to support them throughout their journey for more wins throughout the remainder of the season.
“Process, not outcome,” Miletic said. “Regardless of the wins and losses, we’re always on an upward slope of getting better within the years to come even not specifically just the season.”
“Every time we win, we keep that feeling alive in our mindset and just remember how that felt and that will carry us on for the rest of the season,” Miletic said.