NEWBERRY — As a first-year head coach, Callie Youngman likes to think outside the box.
“Our practice gym is a classroom, and I put a high premium on the process and growth,” said Youngman. “We talk a lot about the mental and emotional side of the game, almost as much as we talk about the physical.”
The Wolves were voted sixth in the 2017 South Atlantic Conference Preseason poll after finishing last season with a record of 20-12, Newberry’s most wins since joining the NCAA ranks, and winning a school-record 16 matches in the SAC. Highlights included an eight-game win streak during the month of October and upsetting No. 23 Wingate at home 3-1.
Newberry lost two key players in Madison Darby-McClure and Logan Hayward, but Youngman knows the future is bright. This starts with the team captains, Kensley Jordan and Mary Siebert.
“Kensley and Mary are the heartbeat of this team. They came into preseason in great physical, mental, and emotional shape. They are hungry,” said Youngman. “We expect a lot out of our ball control corps; these two are the centerpieces of that group.”
Both players made a defensive impact with Jordan leading the team with 530 digs and Siebert recording 359 digs.
Fans should expect to see Toni-Anne Whitlow and Sidra Triplett build on their success from last year. Both had stellar freshman campaigns with Whitlow racking up 233 kills and being named to the SAC All-Freshman team. Triplett made her mark recording 199 kills and 63 blocks. Youngman expects them to be crucial offensive players, especially early in the season.
As a whole, Youngman praises the team’s attitude toward each other.
“We have 20+ very different personalities, and they are all able to just be themselves, giving love and feeling love from their teammates. That authenticity and openness is crucial to both individual and the teams growth and success.”
The Wolves may find that their biggest obstacle this season is trust.
“We are still in the process of – in some ways – learning how to trust one another, trust the training, and trust the systems. Right now, it’s a question of whether or not we have the discipline and maturity to add to our heart, hustle, and trust.”
Youngman added Cecilia Brandon as an assistant coach during the offseason and Jerry Dorneker will be returning for a second season.
“My getting to this point has been a total team effort.”
Newberry will begin its season on Sept. 1 at noon against UNC Pembroke at the Eleazer Arena.