Aug. 9, 2013
Whether it be by way of Arizona, Minnesota, or as far away as Estonia, Ohio volleyball’s eclectic group of seniors has arrived in Athens this summer with a common goal.
To lead by way of democracy.
In college sports, the senior class is often the group that dictates how a season will go. The players have seen a variety of leadership methods based on their previous three years on the court, and they can find what they feel is the best balance to build team chemistry from season’s start to finish.
“We’ve tried to keep our open gym and workout time as open as possible this summer,” outside hitter Liis Kullerkann said. “We want to let the girls know that if someone has something to say, she can come to us. We don’t always see everything that other players do, so it really helps us out and the younger players as well.”
Kullerkann – a native of Keila, Estonia – has certainly seen her share of team dynamics during her career. In addition to time in Athens, Liis also spent this summer as a member of the Estonian National Team.
She will work closely with defensive specialist Mollie Geske to lead the Bobcats by example this season. The Shakopee, Minn., native shares Kullerkann’s populist approach to senior leadership.
“We all come from different worlds and it’s important we all have a voice,” Geske said. “Because everyone can express how they’re feeling and what they feel we need to work on, it feels like our team is very comfortable together already.”
The senior duo will be joined this season by a student-athlete who could be an X-factor in helping propel the team to a special year in 2013.
Alexis Pinson, a four-year member of the Arizona State Sun Devils, transferred to Ohio this spring and will aid the Bobcats in shoring up the middle of the court this season as a graduate student. For Pinson, the move has received high marks thus far.
“The team has been so welcoming and made my transition so much easier,” Pinson said. “It can be awkward being thrust into a senior role when you don’t even know where the laundry goes yet [laughs]. But I’m hoping to take my previous experiences from Arizona State and translate them onto the court here.”
Pinson certainly brings a wealth of that experience to Athens. She led the Sun Devils in blocks per set (1.02) last season and her 121 block assists were the fourth-best in ASU single season history. She also chipped in 220 kills and hit at .308 in 2012.
There are certainly differences between Athens and Tempe, and Pinson likes what she sees so far.
“I really enjoy the small town mentality here, having come from a large city at home,” the Phoenix native said. “Everyone says hello and I always think, ‘What, did I drop something?’ But it’s so warm and welcoming, I love it here.”
In addition to Kullerkann, Geske and Pinson, Kellie Turner (Huntington Beach, Calif.) will be an important part of the senior class. Although Turner has a medical hardship and is unable to play this season, her knowledge of the Ohio system and three years of experience in Athens will make her an important member of the team.
The quartet of seniors is taking their approach to leadership and translating it into their on-court games as well. For Geske, that means becoming a more well-rounded defensive specialist.
“This summer, I’ve been working on my mental game more than my physical one,” Geske said. “As a DS, you have to be very vocal. I’m trying to become more mentally calm and becoming aware of everyone on the court and who needs what kind of support and feedback.”
Now that the season is just days away, Ohio’s 2013 senior class is ready to make the most of their final year in Athens.
“When you become a senior, you want to take as much as you can from your experience,” Kullerkann said. “It’s about having a lot of fun with your teammates and building relationships that will last for a long time.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses. The 2013 edition of the Bobcats is focused, motivated and ready to get down to business on the court.
“We can already see in our open gyms how competitive everyone is getting,” Geske said. “We can be at each other’s throats some times, but I love seeing that. It shows that we have a passion for volleyball and we’re ready to be on the floor together to play, compete and win.”
Ohio volleyball practices begin on Saturday (Aug. 10). For more information and access to exclusive photos and video content, follow the Bobcats on Twitter (@Ohio_Volleyball) or like the team’s Facebook page.