Several Wildcats put on their Davidson jerseys for the last time this weekend. The five volleyball seniors, Gaylen Fronk, Morgan Shannon, Michelle McNeight, Layne Doctson and Hannah Rau, were honored as they stepped onto the court Sunday to celebrate their careers as Wildcats.
The weekend festivities started Friday afternoon with a match against Rhode Island at John M. Belk Arena. Following a loss to the Rams earlier in the season, the Wildcats were eager for redemption. Their desire was evident in their first two games, both of which Davidson won by a score of 25-21. In the third game, they fell just short, dropping it 24-26. A 14-25 loss in the fourth game forced a decisive fifth and final game. The Wildcats dug deep and found a way to get a 15-10 victory. Rau led the team with 12 kills and 13 digs. Sabrina Shepherd ‘19 recorded nine kills and four blocks, while fellow freshman Mason Rooney had eight kills and 22 assists. Ranked third in the A-10, the Rams were a formidable opponent, but a strong crowd inspired the Wildcats’ performance.
“The energy was amazing, our fan base was vibrant, and we played really well,” Rooney said. “It was great to be able to get a little revenge in our final weekend of play. Being at home made the win even sweeter.”
The momentum from Friday’s win carried over to Sunday’s match against Fordham. Starting all of their seniors, the ‘Cats used a 7-0 run to win the first game, 25-13. A heavily contested second game resulted in a 25-19 victory. Playing from behind, the Wildcats were able to regain the lead late in the third and seal the victory with a kill from Rooney. Shepherd and Emily Franklin ‘17 led the team with seven kills each. Mikayla Derochie ‘17 provided the Wildcats with 16 assists. In her final match, Fronk recorded a career-high 14 assists as well.
“This was the first time we not only swept an A-10 weekend, but also the first time we swept at home for an A-10 weekend, which was incredible,” Rau said. “Sweeping this weekend was like my Superbowl. Just such a fantastic way to end, especially beating the number three team in the conference.”
“This season was a huge improvement from last season,” she continued. “We knew what to expect from the A-10 and responded well to the various opponents we faced.”
This season saw a lot of new faces making large impacts on the team’s success. Shepherd and Rooney were two major pieces in the Wildcats’ game plan. Thrust immediately into the spotlight, both handled it with poise and maturity. Crediting her teammates, Rooney attributes the success to her teammates on the court.
“My teammates pushed me so hard all season to better myself, and to strive to get better each day,” Rooney said. “My coaches’ mindsets were similar as well; they see our teams potential, and they push us each day in practice to take steps towards how good we can be.”
With the help of these youngsters, the hopes are high for next season. Ending the year on such a high note, with wins in three of the final four matches, will play a major role in motivation for the offseason.
“I think ending the season with two amazing wins shows us that we are moving in the right direction to compete with the top teams in the A-10,” Shepherd said. “I am really excited to keep building on the success we had at the end of this season. I really want us to make the A-10 tournament next year, and personally I think we can do it.”
While most of the team will start training soon for next season, Rau and the other four seniors are hanging up their jerseys for good. However, not being on the roster doesn’t mean they are not part of the team.
“Being a part of this program changed my life, and now I not only have my family by blood, but I know I will always have my DCVB family supporting my every step of the way from here on out,” said Rau, reflecting on her career. “For those players that went before me and for those who came after me, I will always be grateful to have each of them in my life.
“Being a part of athletics at Davidson asks you to be [almost] abnormal and strive for excellence in every realm of your life,” she continued. “When you battle every day with the same girls, in practice, in lifting, and in matches, you create a bond like nothing else. I will miss those thrilling moments of battle with my teammates.”
Watching seniors like Rau compete this year, Rooney and Shepherd have seen what it takes to improve. Now, with another offseason ahead to improve, Davidson volleyball will look to keep the momentum going into next fall.