New Look 'Cats Wrap Successful Spring Under Alvey|
May 17, 2012
By Shawn Sell
Much has changed since the curtain came down on the 2011 UC Volleyball season. The Bearcats were winners of the BIG EAST Tournament Championship for the first time in program history, before coming up just short of the first-ever Sweet 16 berth last fall, but that was then. And the recently completed spring season is now and was highlighted by the beginning of the Molly Alvey era at UC.
Alvey joined the Bearcat program in February as head coach after the departure of long time head man Reed Sunahara and has spent the recent months getting acclimated to her new team, while her players do the same with her. The saying goes that first impressions go a long way and in this case, that couldn't be truer for Alvey.
"It was definitely encouraging walking into a group that is very prideful of their University and their volleyball program," she says. "They have a very clear identity to what they have created and worked for at UC. That is a really positive atmosphere to walk into. It's difficult as a coach when you have to create that or encourage the players to create what their identity means; that takes several years of work to do that. To have that part already established is really nice."
While most programs take the spring portion of the year to work on replacing graduated seniors or getting on-court, in-game experience for younger players, this spring was different in Bearcat land. Yes, Alvey and her staff (which all joined her from the University of Houston) did that, but that was far from all. The most important task though, was perhaps the simplest as well.
"I think the biggest thing I saw and its really kind of funny in the coaching world with coaching changes and it's hard to overcome at the beginning, is a language barrier," UC's first-year mentor says. "That sounds kind of funny, but my staff and I all coming from our previous institution together, we are all on the same page and then we walk into the gym and it's like we were speaking a foreign language, even though we were speaking perfect English."
Luckily, the Bearcats have an experienced cast already in place that has played lots of volleyball together. Led by the senior class of Emily Hayden, Karen Onuki, Becca Refenes, Jordanne Scott and Megan Turner, Alvey feels good about where her team sits heading into the summer break and ultimately, the 2012 season this fall.
"There are two sides to it. Yes, there is a talented team coming back, but there are also some key pieces that will be different going into next season," she says. "I think volleyball is one of the ultimate team sports, you need all six people on the floor playing well. It's true we have a good team, but we have some critical roles that will be filled by new people. I think the stability of the returnees and their confidence and experience with this team is going to be an incredible asset in getting the new people who will have an instant major role acclimated to what we are doing. I do feel confident over the summer and working into August, but we have a lot of work to do getting all of our new people on board and on the same page."
As she sits back and reflects on her first spring in Bearcat Red and Black, Alvey is pleased with how her new team performed, even if the season wasn't exactly like she is used to.
"It went well. It was a lot slower pace than I am probably used to but I think that is due to teaching and trying to get everyone on the same page as far as the new language and jargon UC is going to be using," she recounts. "We definitely made some progress and taking the time to do those things did make an impact. I think a lot of what we will see come out of it we will start to see in August when we are all back together."
In addition to extensive training and matches against outside competition, the Bearcats were also able to spend time giving back to the community during the spring season as well. Following the last match of the spring, Alvey and her players put on a free clinic for aspiring male and female youth players, drawing nearly 40 participants for the session.