The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of adversity for many people, but what the Castleton volleyball team has gotten out of it has them pointed in an exciting direction.
The team, after not being able to play this past fall, is competing in a five-game abbreviated spring season.
“It’s been going well. We have a small roster of eight girls. It’s been awesome that we’ve been competing with five matches on our schedule so far,” head coach Lindsey Bynon said.
The roster consists of nine girls, but Machaila Arjavich also is apart of the softball team, so the team is competing with eight girls for their abbreviated spring season.
Team members say they are just happy to be playing again.
“Being back on the court is a great feeling after not playing for almost two years,” senior setter Bre MacDuff said.
The team is also grateful, especially with the pandemic creating uncertainty whether players would have any season at all.
“I didn’t lie when I said I was afraid I wouldn’t be given the opportunity to play again, so I am beyond grateful to be given the opportunity to be able to step on the court in this last season of my career,” senior captain Meg Zawatsky said.
Zawatsky will not be returning for another season that was granted to all collegiate athletes due to the pandemic.
The team has dropped their first three matches of this spring season, but Bynon said that the team is in a period where rebuilding is the focus.
“(The pandemic) hit at a tough time for us. But it is great because the girls right now are a wonderful group. They work so hard and are so excited to see the program grow,” Bynon said.
Bynon is using this abbreviated spring season as a building block for next fall and a time to build a strong culture around the team.
MacDuff, who has chosen to come back for an extra season of eligibility, said she sees a real close bond developing with her teammates.
“The comradery we have as teammates is what is helping our program become successful. I know that they all have my back whether it is on the court or off,” said MacDuff, who is from Hudson Falls, New York.
Zawatsky will not be returning for another season but is grateful for her time and the people she has met as a Castleton volleyball player.
“I am so thankful for the relationships I have made along the way. I wouldn’t have chosen a different group of girls to end my volleyball career here at Castleton,” Zawatsky said.
Even though the team has not been as successful in the win loss category, Bynon is more focused on the little things and her players not dwelling on the negatives.
“Volleyball is a huge mental sport. If you get into your head, it’s hard to get out of it. We’ve been focusing on recognizing that we made a mistake and then just moving on to the next point,” Bynon explained.
The back of the girl’s shirts say “Keep Movin Forward” to reiterate that mentality of focusing on the positives.
Bynon continuously mentioned how hard her team has worked through fall practices last semester and this spring. She wants her team to be the hardest workers in the Little East Conference.
“When we leave a gym, we want to be able to say we worked as hard as we could and we want the other team to say that Castleton works really hard,” Bynon said.
The players themselves are the ones holding everyone to a higher standard, not just from the coaching staff.
“This group of girls is the most positive, hard-working, and motivated team. We are a very cohesive group that pushes each other each day in practice,” said Zawatsky, who is from Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
The team is also gaining seven new commits for the fall season and Bynon raved about how they all fit into the team mentality of working hard.
Five out of the seven commits never set foot on campus, so when asked how she sold Castleton volleyball to the recruits, Bynon stuck to three main ideas.
“Number one was just Castleton. How cool of a community Castleton is to be a part of. Number two is my awesome group of girls. And the third would be creativity,” Bynon said.
Not being able to have all recruits on campus was where the creativity came in.
The team had open houses where recruits could go on tours with current members of the team. The team also showed workouts via zoom. And finally, recruits were apart of a Q&A, which allowed the recruits time to ask questions about what it is like to be a Castleton volleyball player.
Lizzie Goodrich, who is the only Vermonter on the team currently, has been a huge help in the recruiting by helping Bynon with admission days.
The team will have 14 players for the next fall season, which Bynon is excited about.
When MacDuff was asked why she wanted to come back for an extra season, she said she just could not leave.
“I can’t see myself not having my last full season at Castleton,” said MacDuff. “Coach Bynon creates such a motivating and positive environment that it made it hard for me to even think of leaving,” she added.
Zawatsky cannot wait to see where the program goes.
“I am going to miss being a member of this team and program and I wish my teammates the best,” she said.
The team is set to play more two more matches this spring, but the excitement is starting to set in for the fall.
“I am most excited to be able to show these teams what Castleton volleyball had been working on for a whole year and see all of this work actually put into a full season,” MacDuff said.