Sept. 27, 2013
The Golden Eagles women's volleyball, lead by interim head coach Amanda Berkley, is off to a nice 9-6 start.
With wins against Jackson State, Troy, New Orleans, Villanova, Southern Louisiana, Prairie View A&M, McNeese State, Louisiana-Monroe, and Texas-Pan American they have shown they are a force to be recon with.
SouthernMiss.com: You're off to a great start this year. Coming into the season, is this where you thought you'd be or have you been surprised by your success?
Coach Amanda Berkley: It's about where I thought we'd be. We had a really young team last year, nine freshmen. This year they're all a year older and they've been able to go through a whole year with us. That's been great for their experience. So were about where I thought we would be, but it's nice to get the wins.
SM: This is your fourth year with the Golden Eagles, but your first as head coach. How different has your experience been this year compared to previous years?
AB: It's not too different, but the decision-making and the choices I have to make falls on my shoulders this time. It's been fun. I've enjoyed being able to design my own practices and make those decisions. It's been a really good experience so far.
SM: You've got a lot of volleyball experience both as a player and assistant coach. Which experience has proved most valuable to your position now?
AB: More along the coaching side. Abbey Sutherland was a great mentor to me and also my sister Susie Johnson is the head volleyball coach at UW Milwaukee so it's been great to have two good role models for me to talk to, but as a coach I've learned a ton at Southern Miss that's helped me prepare to be a head coach.
SM: Do you look to certain players to lead the team and, if so, who do you rely on?
AB: Yes, we definitely do. Our setter, Kristen Fleming, we need her to be a leader on the court because she touches the ball on almost every single rally. We also need our Libero, Mary Pursell, to be a leader because she leads the back row in passing and defense and, finally, we've got an emotional leader in Quinci Hayward. She's our 6-foot-5 kid who can really get the team going with some monstrous kills.
SM: You've mentioned that the team needs to work on consistency. What, specifically, are you focusing on to improve consistency?
AB: We need to be more consistent with ball control. It's either a good pass or a bad pass so we've been focusing a lot on serve and pass. Were also working on staying consistent throughout the whole match because we let the opponents get runs and get back into matches so we just been working a lot on our side of the court and being able to side out right away to get more consistent overall.
SM: How do you help the team maintain balance between athletics and academics?
AB: We make it mandatory for all freshmen to attend study hall. Once they achieve a 3.0 or higher their first year they can get out of study hall, but we make it mandatory otherwise.
I also have meetings with them individually to talk about academics to make sure they're on track and to see if they need any help. We also have a great asset in Kirstin DeFusco who is our academic advisor. She helps out the girls tremendously in their schoolwork.
SM: Hattiesburg has a tremendous community and fan base. How has the community rallied around the team?
AB: We've had a lot of fans come to our matches. The new fans that come out they really enjoy their experience. Coming to a Division I volleyball match is surprising to most people because it's so fast paced and really exciting.
We've gained a lot of fans. And we've had family members, administrators and even our Athletic Director come out to see games on the road.
SM: When the fans come out to support the team does that energize the team to perform?
AB: Yes it sure does. Every year I've been here we've gained more and more fans so that's been really exciting. It pumps up the players to see fans in the stands and excited for their sport.
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