A year removed from a seventeen and thirteen record in 2015 (five and four in conference), the St. Mary’s College of Maryland volleyball team went into this year looking to add another winning season to their history. Since 2012, the Seahawks have posted a robust record of seventy-three and forty-two (going into the year). SMCM ended up besting the previous year’s record by going twenty-one and twelve (five and four in conference). However ultimately the squad lost to Marymount three sets to two on November 1, 2016 in the first round of the playoffs. The 2016 squad was captained by senior Alli Graf and led by other seniors Carissa Hill, Meghan Griffiths, and Mimi Graf.
Despite the early exit, the season was still very successful for the Seahawks. All season the players faced adversity from several main angles. The team ended up with a better record than last year, even though seven seniors graduated last spring. Sophomore Mia Griffiths believes this is due to a shift in the team’s focus. “We have focused this season more on defense because the seniors we graduated were mostly offensive hitters. By focusing on defense we are able to build on our strength of having many returning defensive players.”
Another main challenge was playing without a head coach for the first two months of the season. Last spring, former Seahawk head coach Jeremy Sands resigned from SMCM to become an assistant coach on the United States Naval Academy volleyball team. When the season began, the school had not yet hired a head coach, so former St. Mary’s player and 2016 graduate Autumn Fisher was hired as the interim head coach. On October 20, the school hired a full time head coach in Kelly Martin. Martin has coached previously at the Division I, II, and III levels prior to arriving at St. Mary’s. She also played collegiate volleyball for four years at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Fisher switched to the assistant coach when Martin was hired.
Overall St. Mary’s had a very productive season. Their season was highlighted by several long win streaks. After losing their first match to Johns Hopkins, the volleyball team went on a five game winning streak, including three at the Virginia Wesleyan tournament. Shortly later they proceed to another five game winning streak beginning on September 16 at the Seahawk Invitational. On October 1, the Seahawks yet again began a win streak, this time spanning the course of six games. In this particular streak, they defeated CAC opponents York College (three to one) and Penn State Harrisburg (three to zero). On back to back days at the end of the month, St. Mary’s picked up two more conference wins against Southern Virginia on October 21st (three to one) and Frostburg on October 22nd (three to one), respectfully. According to Griffiths, their strategy all season was: “To play smart rather than ‘hard’, meaning that we want to mix up our hits and try to be unpredictable.”