On Sept. 2-3, the University of Dallas female freshman volleyball players delivered a strong debut in their two-day tournament. The team won three games and lost one.
In the first match (3-0), UD pressured Regis to call their timeouts in order to regroup from their consistent offense. Isabel McKamey, a freshman biology major and #5, and Layo Akinyede, a freshman biology-nursing major and #14, connected with their setters to deliver deep spikes, most often aiming for the opponent’s weak spots.
In the second match (3-2), the Crusaders faced an endurance battle, mentally and physically, against an evenly-matched McMurray. After losing the first set, an unsuspected ally appeared for the athletes: the Blue Crew.
These fans not only inspired the Crusaders to finish strong and win the match but also encouraged particular calls — even if they were wrong — for the referees, hyped up the officials and complimented the statistics crew to get songs queued.
“My favorite part was the student section. They were really lively,” commented Akinyede, “so, when they all came in for the last game, I already knew that we were going to win. With that much encouragement, you just can’t lose, you know?”
This confidence booster also infected the upperclassmen Crusaders to support their freshman by breaking through blocks and making tight recoveries. Emma Parsons, a freshman biology major and #10, saved the ball using a pancake, which is a very precise recovery technique that uses a flat hand against the floor, and was followed up by a crisp spike from a current junior, Cassie Dyoub, a business major.
The coordination and connection between the freshman and their upperclassmen led to the opponent calling another timeout and eventually a final win. After winning a long match and experiencing so much support, the Crusaders were prepared for the next day’s matches.
In the third match (3-0), the Crusaders focused on making relaxed plays. Throughout all these games, Devin Henry, a freshman psychology major and #3, continued to be a strong and reliable libero throughout the entirety of the tournament.
Finally, on the fourth and final match (0-3), the Crusaders faced the powerful Pacific. Despite having the Blue Crew and fans begging the Pacific’s coach to give the Crusaders a chance for a comeback, Pacific won the final game giving the Crusaders: a total of three wins and one loss.
These debuting freshmen are more than just athletes. Each girl chose UD for the student-athlete balance, a sisterhood community and a challenge. Henry shared that she followed a high school upperclassman, current senior Larissa Ramirez, a business major, to UD.
“I just really love the way we all play together. It is like a family and I never really experienced such a good community in the volleyball world,” Henry said.
Parsons commented, “I was really excited to come to UD because I felt like I got a good balance between pursuing my athletic passion and also getting further in my academic career.” To her and many other student-athletes, UD understands and appeals to both passion and academics.
As these Crusaders transition into a university environment, they are continually supported by their teammates and professors. “On the team, we have the upperclassmen and they help us a lot. When they aren’t there to help, there are tutoring hours that the professors offer and everything,” McKamey said. “It really helped me feel comfortable with the idea of balancing volleyball and school.”
Kelli Trautmann, the coach of the women’s volleyball team, credited the team’s main strength within this tournament to the upperclassmen.
“The upperclassmen did a good job of kinda controlling the tempo, their emotions, and stepping up and being an encouragement for the freshmen,” said Trautmann. Her goal is to lead this year’s team to the conference tournament finishing in at least fourth or fifth place. With that, she and the volleyball team welcomes back their fans for their next home game.
“It’s neat to see all the excitement and the cheering from our student section and it makes a huge difference on the court, so hopefully they keep coming out for our home games […] I encourage them and welcome them back, because it does definitely help us on the court. The girls feed off that and love that energy.”