Already flying high above last year’s 12th place OVC finish, the Golden Eagle volleyball team prepares for takeoff as it begins conference play against Murray State and Austin Peay this weekend. With an entirely new coaching staff this year, head coach Dave Zelenock has plans to take Tech to the top.
“We are winning with returners,” said Zelenock. “Minus a few players, we have the same lineup out there as last year and we’re winning. We train completely opposite of the way it was done before and we are seeing results.”
The Golden Eagles are set to host Murray State at 7 p.m. Friday in the Hooper Eblen Center, followed by in-state rival Austin Peay at 2 p.m. on Saturday. This will be Tech’s first big test at home after tallying a 4-6 start on the road to begin the 2013 season.
“Friday night is coming up quick,” said senior Natalie Penrod. “It being our home opener is what is getting us pumped. We’ve been on the road for the past few weekends and are ready to show the Golden Eagle fans what we can do.”
Coach Zelenock served as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator at Central Michigan before joining Tech’s staff. He was successful in turning out multiple top ranked recruiting classes for the Chippewas.
“This year’s recruits are the right people,” said Zelenock. “They work hard and they push but it’s going to be gradual. We’re looking for long term success in the program and I have been given the recruiting resources here at Tech that will allow us to be successful.”
Zelenock said seniors Ellise Robertson, Natalie Penrod and Ashleigh Hancock have overcome a dramatic change in coaching styles since he took over the program.
“They have all fallen into their roles nicely,” said Zelenock. “Elise is leading us in kills and has done very well with adapting to the system we play. She is a green light kid who’s supposed to go for it on every single swing and this system allows her to do that.”
Zelenock said Hancock has had to learn a completely new offense after switching from last year’s 6-2 formation.
“Ashleigh [Hancock] is learning how to run an offense in a 5-1, which is new to her, but she’s been in the film room watching film and asking questions,” said Zelenock. “We don’t micromanage during game play. We do most of our coaching during practice. Once the game starts, it’s her game and she’s done a really good job.”
Penrod has been battling a double knee injury since her sophomore year, but Zelenock said she has recovered and resumed her role on the court.
“Natalie [Penrod] is coming back from an injury and is leading the team in attempts. Emotionally, she is the leader of this team,” said Zelenock.
Tech’s last matchup was split with a 3-2 win over Stony Brook and a 3-0 loss to Samford on Sept. 14. The team has not played a match in nearly two weeks, but Zelenock said he does not believe that will be a negative factor in this weekend’s success.
“For me, motivation does not come from coaches. It’s inside you,” said Zelenock. “I’ll give you a kick in the butt every once in a while and remind you what we are going for, but if you don’t have it inside of you, I don’t usually have you in the program.”
Junior Ellen Conti said the team’s success this year has come from changes both on and off the court and the players are excited for this weekend’s matchups.
“We have all bonded off the court so great that it is showing on the court as well,” said Conti.
Penrod looks to lead the Golden Eagle volleyball team to its first OVC championship since 2008. “We’ve jumped on Coach Z’s train and are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get an OVC ring. We are hungry,” said Penrod.