Sept. 2, 2013
Volleyball's Hanafin Set for Senior CampaignBy David Boyce
An early-season road trip is one way for a team to bond. Northwest Missouri State volleyball will travel many miles over the next six weeks.
Senior setter Bridget Hanafin expects good times on the bus and even better times on the volleyball court.
The 2013 Bearcats begin their journey Thursday afternoon when they depart Maryville for two matches Friday and another two Saturday in the Winona State Tournament.
“It is a blast,” Hanafin said. “A road trip is always fun. It is what we make it. We could easily sit on the bus and listen to our music and it would be boring.We have enough players on our team who want to have the interaction with everyone else. We make it fun when we are on the road.”
From Friday through Oct. 12, Northwest plays only one match at Bearcat arena. It is against rival Missouri Western on Sept. 17.
Before taking on the Griffons, the Bearcats will open the season Friday with games against MSU-Moorehead and Winona State. On Saturday, they will face St. Joseph’s College and Upper Iowa.
A week later, Northwest will play four more matches over two days in the Sioux Falls Tournament.
Following the Missouri Western match, the Bearcats will play six straight MIAA teams on the road.
With such a difficult start to the season, it is essential for Northwest to have strong leadership from its seniors.
Hanafin will play a significant role in that area. Hanafin and Mackie Keller are the only two seniors on the team and they are the captains.
“It means being a good leader, kind of showing the rest of the team the ropes and guiding them in the right direction to work towards our team goals throughout the season,” Hanafin said of being a team captain.
The hitters on the Bearcats will rely on Hanafin for another reason. Hanafin plays setter, which in football terms, is the quarterback on the volleyball court. Her job is to put players in position to succeed.
Hanafin spent last season learning about her new teammates. She transferred from Tyler Community College in Tyler, Texas. She saw action 16 matches and started four. She was second on the team in assists with 252.
“It was a constant getting to know them on a level deeper than volleyball,” she said. “When I first came here in the spring of 2012, it was a little different. Everybody had been here an entire semester before I got here. I had to work to get to know them better and be more willing to open up myself. It was important to talk on the court.”
Northwest coach Amy Woerth saw the improvement, especially after last season ended.
“I noticed a huge improvement from the summer to now,” Woerth said. “She put in a lot of work in the summer.
“I think it is just like your quarterback in football. You know who you are setting and getting the ball to. She is closer to them. Her relationships with them are better. She is more of a communicator and leader.”
Last year Northwest finished 15-17 overall and 9-9 in the MIAA. The Bearcats are determined to improve on last year’s mark. They showed enough bright moments in matches against some of the elite teams to prove they can compete with them.
It’s now a matter of consistently playing well throughout a match instead of only a portion of it.
“We went through spurts,” Hanafin said. “We start off the game really well and not finish strong or we would not start strong, but at the end we would have the momentum but it was just too late.
“What it is going to take is constant focus in practice, off the court and in games. It really comes down to discipline. That is going to be big for us this year.”
Like most seniors competing in their final year of collegiate athletics, Hanafin is going to savor everything about this season.
She is graduating this spring with a degree in bio psychology with a minor in sports medicine. She will send applications to medical schools in the spring. Hanafin hopes to work in pediatrics or sports medicine one day.
When Hanafin steps on the volleyball court, her focus is on volleyball. She likes what she has seen from the team after the first week of practice.
“We are looking a lot more comfortable than last year,” Woerth said. “The system that we put into play last year is that much more precise. They understand the very first time we explain something to them. They can work without thinking. It is a more naturally looking team that plays well together because they already know the system.
“The intensity is a lot greater than last year. I think a lot more people are on the same page.”
And that means more victories for the Bearcats. Hanafin, though, doesn’t want to think about matches from last year or look ahead to games a month from now.
“We are going to live in the moment, soaking in every practice, every game and every team activity we do,” she said.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
email@example.com | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582
Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468