The Univeristy of Rhode Island women’s volleyball team is enjoying its fourth 7-0 start in the last 34 years, and though it is early in the season, it is hard not to get caught admiring how far the team has come.
The squad was able to beat Northeastern 3-1 and swept three opponents at the Sacred Heart Invitational this past weekend. Head coach Bob Schneck was especially pleased with the dramatics against Iona on Saturday.
“I’ve been doing this here for 34 years and we’ve had one of the best comebacks that I’ve ever seen at URI on Saturday,” Schneck said. “They were down 22-17 in the second set against Iona and came back to win 33-31.”
The Rams won their last four games against Hartford, Sacred Heart, Iona and Northeastern, while only giving up a total of one set. Perhaps the most impressive part about the Rams hot start has been the dominant play on not one but both ends of the court. Teams have had trouble penetrating their defense, which is spearheaded by senior Catie Steffen and Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Week Layne Self. Sophomore Callan Kinnan had 51 assists and 18 digs in the Rams’ win against Northeastern. Kinnan also had 60 assists against Albany on Aug. 30, the most by any Rhode Island player since Britta Feldman set the record in 2000 with 89.
On offense, Franki Darnold had a weekend to remember, being named to the All-Tournament team after her play in the Sacred Heart Invitational. She accounted for one-third of the team’s kills over three games, racking up 44 against Hartford, Sacred Heart and Iona. She also has contributed a great deal on defense, with a season-high 18 digs coming against Northeastern. Darnold has been consistent right from the start, averaging 15 kills and just fewer than 11 digs per game on the season, registering double-digit kills in every game.
Schneck is more than pleased with the team’s hot start, but he is looking at who will stand in the way of his team’s goal: winning the A-10 conference tournament.
“We knew we had a good team last spring,” Schneck said. “We knew it when we played George Washington at George Washington at the end of last year right before the A-10 tournament, and we beat them really bad. Then we play them in the A-10 tournament and of course they plant their angry mob right behind us. So we didn’t play our best, but our players haven’t forgotten that.”
The Rams go to Darnold to initiate the offense. They go to their lockdown back row on defense. They have leadership and clutch play from seniors Steffen and Kelly Rosenberg. A mix of experience and talent at every position has gotten Rhode Island to their best start in 15 years.
Schneck said all the players were focused after their loss last year, and they “all came back in great shape,” to start the season. The Rams have a combination of talented young players and experienced veterans, which could set them up for a deep run in the conference tournament. But for now, Schneck has been adamant about concentrating on one game at a time.
The Rams are hoping to remain undefeated after their first home game, which will be held Friday, Sep. 12, against NJIT at 2 p.m.