Chemistry, leadership guiding factors in Argo success
When playing sports there’s a few phrases that every athlete likes to hear. Things like good job, nice hustle, and we believe in you. But the ultimate compliment for any athlete is being called Champions!
The UWF women’s volleyball team are back-to-back GSC champions and have dominated their conference for years. Heading into the 2019 GSC tournament, the first place Argos have their sights set on a three-peat.
The Argonauts have gone a perfect 16-0 in conference play this season and have an overall record of an astounding 24-8. UWF ended the season on an impressive nine game win streak after defeating the Auburn Montgomery Warhawks last Friday 3-0.
Going undefeated in GSC play was one of the many season goals for this team. During the season, standout freshman middle blocker Veresia Yon said, “As of now, we are undefeated in our conference and our main goal of the season is to stay undefeated and win the GSC Championship. This year we have very high expectations. UWF’s volleyball program has come out on top in the GSC for many years, so keeping that streak alive is definitely in our sights.”
West Florida has surpassed those expectations by going undefeated in the conference for the third time in history. And players Jordyn Poppen, Ebony Powers, and Veresia Yon have all earned spots on the 2019 All-GSC Team.
Head coach Melissa Wolter knew this team could be special saying, “The leadership on this team is great. We have 3 captains and they are all seniors. They are doing excellent just pouring into their teammates and instilling belief in their vision for the year.
Senior outside and right-side hitter Ebony Powers has appeared in 30 matches and is fourth on the team in blocks with 56 on the season. She is also third on the team in kills with a total of 206 in 101 sets played. Her outstanding play on both the offensive and defensive side has earned her a spot on second-team All-GSC.
Even though the Argos are in the midst of an undefeated season in conference play, this year has had its ups and downs. And one of those low moments was at the Regional Crossover where the Argonauts lost all three matchups during the event.
Instead of hanging their heads, they used their shortcomings as fuel and have remained unbeaten since the loss to the Embry-Riddle Eagles on October 19.
“I think every year there are obstacles that every team faces. We have had our setbacks this year, but we are better prepared for anything that comes our way as the season progresses,” Senior Jordyn Poppen stated. “We have learned how to battle through adversity and win with our backs against the wall. Every challenge that we have faced this year is preparing us for post-season. We overcome the tough losses by taking positives away and implementing what we have learned at practice.”
Yon explained that the crossover was actually good for this team, saying, “One of the main obstacles that our team faced was when we went to the Regional Crossover. However, because of how positive everyone on our team is, that was the best thing that could’ve happened to us. After losing, the following weeks in training we have been laser-focused on getting better, especially since we know we are going to have to see those teams again.”
Yon has been a breakout star for West Florida this season. Coming in second on the team with 315 total kills in 31 matches played. Her defense has been elite as well with a team high 18 blocked shots and 102 block assists. Her outstanding play has earned her a spot on the 2019 All-GSC first team.
Yon knew that she had some big shoes to fill but has filled in seamlessly with this team, saying, “Individually this season means a lot to me. After my true freshman year, I was expecting to use this year to just grow and develop as a player, I had little to no expectations of being in the starting lineup. During my true freshman year, I was surrounded by all of these great players, especially the ones that played in my position, so being a big part of our team, this year was not in my line of view last season.”
This UWF team is filled with elite players, but at the top of the mountain is senior outside hitter Jordyn Poppen. She has been an impactful player and leader for West Florida since 2016, and this year she has surpassed 1000 career kills.
Poppen has appeared in all 31 matches and has played a team high 133 sets and has finished fourth in the GSC and first on the team with 404 kills this season and 458 points total. On the defensive end Poppen is second on the team with 401 digs on the year.
“As far as my individual statistics and accomplishments are concerned, I try not to think about them during the season. I am sure I will look back some day and be proud of the time and opportunities I have had at UWF. I work really hard to be the best I can be for my team in any way I can contribute. The wins come first and the awards will always come second. I could not accomplish anything without my team and coaches.” Poppen humbly stated.
But coach Wolter knows the seriousness of Poppen’s career and her kills accomplishment saying, “Jordyn has been a marquee player for our program and a great leader. She wasn’t even going to play volleyball in college and now her name will be in our record books for all of history. Jordyn is an incredible person and leader. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Team chemistry is one of the most important things in sports. It’s difficult to describe, but when it’s nonexistent, it’s blatantly obvious. When watching this Argo team play, aside from all the elite talent, one thing that is very noticeable is that all the players are in sync, this team’s chemistry is a big key to their success.
When asked about the bond this team has, Poppen said, “Our team chemistry this year is extremely unique. I have never been on a team where so many people truly care about one another on and off the court. Everyone wants to be successful for each other, it is never about ourselves. We are all friends, and it is apparent that we all have the exact same goal.”
“There are some numerical goals that we as a team are aiming to achieve, but our biggest overall goal for the season is to have each other’s backs. Early on in preseason we decided that holding each other accountable, respecting each other, and trusting each other would take us further than any numerical goal.” Poppen continued.
When asked about her mindset, as it pertains to the GSC tournament, Yon said, “The one game that I’m the most excited about is the GSC Championship. So far in my career, I haven’t played in any high stakes games, so I’m excited to see how my teammates and myself handle it. “
The GSC volleyball championship tournament starts Friday November 22 and will end with the championship game on Sunday, November 24 at 1 PM. The eight-time GSC Tournament champion Argos’ first match will be on Saturday, November 23.
Photo courtesy of GoArgos.com