Volleyball Team Thrives Under New Coach

With a new coach, nine first years, nine returning players, and five common goals in mind, the women’s volleyball team is looking to make an unexpected run at a conference championship.

Head Coach Kelly Fry returns as coach for the Cougars after leaving for graduate school after the 2004-2005 season. Fry is overwhelmed with excitement at the renewal of her coaching position.

“I love coaching. I always hoped to come back to it, but I didn’t imagine I would be back in the same school. I was looking around and it just worked out,” said Fry.

Student Assistant Collin Silibia jumped on board fueled by his love of volleyball, while both are joined by senior captains Kellyn Swanson and Shelby Brochetti.

The team went into preseason with five goals: place in a tournament, have a better record, place higher than they did in conference last year, which was fourth going into playoffs, beat Eastern University in at least one set and grow closer at a team.

“A match is best of five sets, so we wanted to at least take a set because in the past they had beaten us in all sets. Eastern had lost their first set to another team in 17 years recently. They’re a very tough team and we know that. I think and I hope the players agree that we can beat them this year. But we started our goals off with something definitely achievable which is taking a set.”

Fry went into preseason with many expectations and came out with many results. She handed the girls a workout packet before they left for summer break so the team would be in shape and they could focus on skills, offense and defense once the season started. The team is now undefeated in conference play and looking for a run towards the conference championship.

“We would spend about 20 minutes per skill per practice usually. Offense is key. That’s where you score the most points so we really did a lot. Also, we changed our defense a little bit this year too, but that was a quick adjustment for us. We spent more time on offense.”

Sibilia helped the girls learn plays, something they had struggled with in the past, and Fry believes the that is critical in the team’s improvement.

“That’s been a huge force for us against some of the teams to this point, being strategic with our plays and mixing it up that way. That’s something I felt focused on for sure,” Fry said.

Fry said the team’s serving has gotten better. “That was something that I wanted us to be a really strong team at,” Fry said.

“We’ve improved upon from preseason until now. We don’t have a ton of height so that’s one of the most challenging skills for a team like us, but we’ve really improved upon our blocking.” –

Fry expects big things from senior middle hitter Kellyn Swanson and senior outside hitter Shelby Brochetti. Junior outside hitter Meghan Stack, and sophomore setter Nicole Tagerty are  key players as well. Junior libero Lexi Giannone is important to the defense.

Fry also counts on her first years to take the places of her departing seniors. Because of her late announcement accepting the coaching position, she was only partially involved in the recruiting process.

“I sort of recruited them. I came in February, which most girls kind of know by then, but a portion of them didn’t. I would say half of them didn’t commit until late in the semester, but most of them were all contacts I was given when I came in who were already reaching out to us. A good handful of them I got to go see play in the spring during their club season, so I did go out and see what they were all about. It was kind of a 50/50 thing. Half of them had been interested in Misericordia for the major that they were looking for and the education,” said Fry.

She expects results from outside or right hitter Paige Shaughnessy, defensive specialist and setter Ariana Gagliardi and outside or right hitter Michelle Sehested.

The team expects challenges from Eastern University, DeSales University and Fairleigh Dickinson University–Florham, but they use those games to build upon their mistakes and make them into strengths.

“We just take what hurts us the most and improve on that in practice. We have been working a lot on pursuit, when balls go off court. The gymnasiums where we play are different from ours, the ceilings are low, so sometimes we get in trouble when we play it up high in the ceiling,” said Fry.

Some other things the girls have been working on this season include seeing what is open on the other side and communicating continuously.

“Sometimes the girls close off communication when we are getting tight in a match. We do a lot of stuff like that off court. I’ve been trying to get them to grow together off the court, so we can carry that onto the court and understand each other’s personalities,” said Fry.

Off the court, seniors Swanson and Brochetti have been getting the first years oriented to college and student athlete life.

“Preseason we did a lot of team bonding, like just getting together playing games or something. Just to get them to see us off the court. We did a big sister thing were each freshmen is assigned to an upperclassman to help them adjust or go to lunch with them, help them when the need it and just be there for them. We helped them get to their classes on the first day so they didn’t feel lost,” said Swanson.

Brochetti did all she could to make the first years feel comfortable.

“I feel like the freshmen just expect too much of themselves and just get down on themselves. We just need to encourage them more so and say ‘hey you are great already.’  They have a lot to learn already and they don’t see that yet,” said Brochetti.

The team does see one thing quite clearly: the leadership provided by their coach. “I was just hoping for a positive influence and that’s what coach has given us. We’ve kind of struggled with that in the past, so that’s what I definitely wanted this year. I wanted someone who was going to stick around with these girls for the next couple of years because we haven’t had a lot of consistency with that, and someone who would give a positive attitude because we needed that,”  said Swanson

“I feel very fortunate just coming into this group. I am just very thankful for such a talented group that at times makes my job very easy. They are very hardworking, very driven,” Fry said.

Silibia said that passionate, supportive attitude – of the coach and players alike – will help players reach for what they covet. “I’m dreaming for the NCAA tournament, that’s what I’m dreaming for.”