Freshman face challenging changes on and off court

In her first month of college, Bethan Murphy has faced the normal challenges every freshman has to deal with. Murphy is learning how to get around campus and figuring out how to survive without mom’s home cooking.

But Murphy, a freshman setter for the UAA volleyball team, is also making the jump from prep volleyball to the Division II ranks, making her introduction to college that much rougher.

“Here I have to do everything on my own and my parents aren’t there yelling at me (to get stuff done),” Murphy said. “High school wasn’t nearly as hard.”

The move is not an easy one from a time-management standpoint. Managing time turns into a priority–the difference between success and failure. Freshmen have to fit workouts, practices, classes, study halls and team functions into their daily routine. But academic advisors, coaches and older teammates help smooth things for each incoming freshman.
Advisors help athletes plan their class schedules to accommodate practices, games and road trips. Freshmen are required to attend study hall for a minimum six hours a week for their first semester or until they have a 3.0 GPA. The stringent study hall rules have proved to be successful for the Seawolf spikers. Last year, 15 of 17 players had a 3.0 GPA or higher.

“The ladies are here to take care of business on and off the court,” UAA assistant coach Julie Foster said. “Their job is to play volleyball and go to school.”

The prep to college transition also requires young players to check their egos at the door. Many players go from first-team all state stature to role player off the bench. Instead of playing every game, they have to watch and learn and wait their turn.

“It’s an amazing experience to reach their long-term goal of being a college volleyball player,” Foster said. “It’s about understanding that they’re no longer the big fish in the little bowl but the little fish in a big bowl.”

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Embracing a smaller role shows coaches and teammates that the team comes before personal glory. A freshman playing tough in practice helps the coaches simulate games and keeps the starters on their toes.

“It’s a big change. You’re helping the team through practices,” said freshman outside hitter Brenda Cooper. “You’ve got to turn that intensity onto the other girls when you can’t play.”
Coaches have a high expectation of improvement for first-year players with reduced roles on the team. Work in the weight room is mandatory, as opposed to high school where it is often voluntary. Some players show up on campus unprepared after the lighter load they had in high school.

“The workout schedule is a huge change and to see a freshmen puking or to be so sore they can’t go up the stairs isn’t uncommon,” said Foster. “But I’ll tell you this, they won’t come back in that shape ever again.”

The team spends about a total of 20 hours a week in practice and the weight room. Each day the team is expected to run and stretch prior to their two-hour practice in addition to conditioning and lifting three days a week With all the responsibilities, playing a DII sport like volleyball is nearly equivalent to working a full time job and going to school at the same time.

But all the time put in is made easier when your teammates are working just as hard, something few standout athletes find on the prep level.

“The team intensity as a whole is different. Everybody wants to be here and wants to work,” Cooper said. “College is for people who want to win.”