Inside Volleyball’s Conference-Winning Season

Interviewed by Aiden Holczer and Twumasi Duah-Mensah

The Herald sent questions to volleyball captains and seniors Shannon Ullman and Shirita Wells about their season, which came to an end after a second round playoff loss to Holly Springs.

Note: These questions were sent and answered before the Holly Springs game.

What are some of the responsibilities you’ve had as captain?

Shannon: I have had to make sure that the team work cohesively and that we all get along. I also help to communicate with the team from Furlough. Furlough thinks that I can get to them better. I don’t do many more things than everyone else on the team but I try to keep everything working.

 

Shirita: I keep everybody focused by communicating and engaging my offensive and defensive players throughout every point.

How often do you serve as a mentor to your teammates?

Shannon: I try to serve as a mentor when I can, but I don’t try to assert myself in every situation where it isn’t needed. If someone needs help with their placement on the court for blocking, or they just need to snap their wrist to hit the ball downward more, I will let them know and give them my advice. If they don’t take it, that’s fine because I am one of the most inexperienced, but I have worked hard and learned a lot that I am willing to share when needed.

Tell me more about how you’ve gotten over your lack of experience to become captain of the team.

Shannon: Last year, I began to go to a lot of clinics and classes to work specifically on my position or certain aspects of my game I needed to get better at. This allowed me to focus and get specialized help on what I was messing up on or struggling with. I then transferred all of that into my school and club seasons so that my hard work made it appear that i have been playing longer than I actually have. Furlough understood all of the effort I put into the clinics and working in and out of practice which I believe helped to show my dedication to the sport as well as my work ethic that would work well for a captain position. My team was actually the reason that I am captain because they voted me in, so I think that they understood everything I put in as well as my leadership potential.

How has Coach Furlough supported your rapid growth as a player and captain?

Shannon: Furlough has supported my growth by letting me work out everything I need to instead of constantly being in me about everything little mistake. I am one of the players that is the hardest on myself and I usually know what I did wrong if I make a mistake so she lets me work on that before adding any advice. She also always answers my questions when i’m really confused on what to do and is always willing to help me work through any problems I’m having on the court.

Would you say she acts like a voice of reason?

Shannon: Yes, especially when I’m wrapped up in the moment or what’s happening on the court.

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Captain Shannon Ullman, right, with Coach Jessica Furlough. Sisters.

How do you work with Shannon to ensure the team is a well-oiled machine?

Shirita: I’m constantly communicating with Shannon on what play I am running with her throughout every dead ball.

How has your personal journey in volleyball prepared you to become a team captain?

Shirita: I’ve been playing volleyball for eight years. I have played on varsity since freshman year and I’ve played club volleyball since 13. These experiences have enabled me to learn how to lead my teammates through great examples throughout my volleyball career.

How did you guys adjust after the first two losses of the season to go on a 5-game winning streak?

Shirita: We had a team meeting with our coach to talk about areas we needed to improve on, and we made goals [for the] season.

What were those goals?

Shirita: To win conference, hustle for everything, communicat[e] with each on the court, [and to not] miss two serves in a row as a team.

What made y’all confident that you could win conference? 

Shirita: The main element that our coaches installed in us that we are able to win conference if we play together as a team and work hard.

How much does Coach value team bonding? 

Shirita: To Coach Furlough, team bonding is very important; she schedules the dinners that we have after some of the practices. Team bonding helps a lot because when…you get to know more about [your teammates], and you feel more comfortable with them…[W]hen you get on the court, it feels easier to communicate with them…and tell them where to go on the court, and you have more fun.

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Who do you think has improved the most out of everyone on the team this season?

Shannon: I think that Maddy Riley would be one of our players that has improved the most. I don’t believe that she started off bad, but over the course of the season, she has become a solid rock that the team can depend on for digging tough hits or serving under pressure. She has definitely been a valuable player to the team.

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Sophomore Maddy Riley (green) hustling for the hit.

Do you think being made captain this year has changed you? If so, how? And what advice would you give for whoever takes your place as captain next year?

Shannon: Being a captain has changed me for the better because I look out for the team more often, and I’m more concerned with making sure that everyone is on the same page and working well together. Whoever takes my place as captain just needs to lead the team in a positive way and be open to everything that happens. They also have to be trusted by the team to help them succeed as well as work with Furlough to get every message across.

 

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