By JJ Yang
A team full of freshman usually means one thing: Wait until next year.
Of the 21 players currently on the roster for women’s volleyball team, 13 are freshmen with an additional five players returning for just their second year.
But after a successful 11-8 start to the season, the "baby" Slugs of UC Santa Cruz are poised to do something they haven’t done for five years. That is, make the playoffs.
Gillian McGraw, the lone senior and team captain, likes what she has seen from her team.
"The freshmen are remarkably dedicated and hard working," McGraw said. "These girls can overcome anything."
After going 4-2 over their last six matches, the Slugs came home last weekend to host Slug Fest, a two-day tournament featuring four DIII schools. UCSC finished with an impressive record of 3-1.
"The purpose of Slug Fest is to bring as many DIII schools in as you can," UCSC Athletics Director Linda Spradly said. In order to qualify for the playoffs, the team has to play a certain number of games against other DIII schools.
The Slugs kicked off Friday with a convincing 30-20, 30-16, 30-17 win over La Sierra University, but stumbled against rival CSU East Bay, getting swept 30-20, 30-25, 30-26.
"We were disappointed by our performance," McGraw said. "We’re way better than the way we played. It’s tough losing to our rivals, but we have three more chances, and we’re going to get them."
Of course with any young team, inexperience and inconsistency is a factor. This showed through on Saturday, as the Slugs lost the first games in match-ups against Dominican and Colorado College but came back to win both matches.
"I think it was one of our best games," freshman Jackie McCrory said of the team’s 24-30, 30-23, 23-30, 30-18, 15-7 win over Colorado College. "It was the first time all season we went to five games. We knew they would be tough."
Freshman Stephanie Morrow was confident of her team’s chances. "We knew we were going to win, and that’s all it took," Morrow said.
The Slugs started off the year losing five of nine, including blowout losses against Whitworth College and Evergreen State. But an impressive string of wins and dominant play has healed the growing pains, and the Slugs have broken through with an invigorated focus on making the playoffs.
Coach Teitelbaum is excited with the progression of her team.
"They have gelled incredibly and the chemistry is the best I’ve seen," Teitelbaum said. "This is the best team we’ve ever had.
Considering how young we are, we have the potential to do something great."