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Bradley volleyball: A New Hope

Bradley volleyball was in a dark place during the 2014 season. A year removed from a 2013 MVC tournament bid, the team lost 25 consecutive games before their first win and were only able to manage two wins by season’s end. They were shut out in 13 matches, and only two matches went to five sets.

In a sense, the team’s previous season was similar to the galaxy ruled by the Sith Empire in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Losing for the Braves seemed inevitable, just like any rebellion in the galaxy far, far away.

However, just like in “Star Wars,” the Braves have a new hope. This year’s freshman class has offered a look at a brighter future for the women’s volleyball team.

“We’re definitely going to get better,” freshman Erica Haslag said. “This season is going to be amazing, I can feel it. We just need to clean up a few things and we’re going to get on a roll. I think through my time here we’re going to continue to get better and better every year.”

This year has already been an improvement from the last. The Braves are 5-9, and the improvement has been led by Haslag and fellow freshman Allison Turner, who are team leaders in kills. Haslag currently boasts an average of 2.75 kills per set while Turner isn’t much further behind at 2.43.

“It’s definitely humbling because I didn’t know what to expect coming into the team,” Haslag said. “I was thinking I was just going to fight for a spot, and I didn’t know where I was going to be at. It just happened to go my way and I hope that we can continue to improve.”

Turner agreed with Haslag, as she said she wants to see the team improve.

“It definitely feels really good [to have made such a big impact so far],” Turner said. “The big thing I want is for this to carry over into more wins [as the season goes on].”

Haslag and Turner aren’t the only freshmen making an impact on the team. Raegan Jackson has been an integral part of the team’s success. Despite saying she prefers hitting to blocking, she leads the team in total blocks with 33 and is second in blocks at .77 per set.

The women had somewhat different reasons for coming here. Haslag said that she wanted to comepete in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). Turner and Jackson both expressed their interest in the facilities and the quality of the coaching staff here at Bradley. Now that they’re all here, they’ve formed into what Jackson calls “one cohesive unit.”

Freshman Erica Haslag rises for a kill in a match against DePaul. Photo by Ann Schnabel.
Freshman Erica Haslag rises for a kill in a match against DePaul. Photo by Ann Schnabel.

“I was blown away [by the chemistry],” Jackson said. “It was part of the reason I committed here. This culture of the team is so family-oriented. No one is left out, and we’re all in it together. We’d do anything for each other. It’s been amazing.”

The relationship among the freshman class itself seems to be an even closer knit group.

“We’re so close, we love each other,” Haslag said. “We all have super good chemistry, all in the dorms together. We always hang out every night and talk about how we can get the team going.”

Jackson even said that the team is building a relationship with Bradley players who aren’t even here yet. Three of Bradley’s verbal commits were at their camp in July, and the camaraderie began there.

“I got to play in that camp with them and I got to meet them,” Jackson said. “I talk to them all the time, and there’s already kind of a relationship there. I feel like our dynamic moving forward…our game is going to get faster and more mature.”

As talented as the women already are, they have room to grow. Haslag holds a significant role on the team and as a freshman, it can be stressful.

“I want to be the one to get the point back, I want to be the one to put the ball down, but I can’t always because I’m just not there yet,” Haslag said. “I definitely know that I’m going to keep improving, and hopefully I can be the person that can score for the team.”

The trio of freshmen give a much needed dose of hope for the years to come. With the arsenal of talent the Braves are accumulating, they’ll soon be able to return anything thrown their way, and strike back even harder.

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