For first-year head coach Shannon Thompson and the rest of the Canisius volleyball team, the theme this fall has been positivity.
It was a tumultuous offseason for the team, which last season saw them reach the semifinals, the second straight year they had reached that point and their first time playing in back-to-back MAAC Tournaments since 2010-2012.
Former head coach Lenika Vasquez left Canisius in February to take the same position at Northeastern University. Thompson, then an assistant coach at Campbell, was hired on July 23. Four days later, their fall season was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
The team began practicing in September and it has been smooth sailing for the Griffs, who returns nine players from last year’s squad. Five of those nine are juniors and the team features just one senior. The team also has three incoming transfers: sophomore Elle Shult (Western Illinois) and juniors Giulia La Longa (Monroe Community College) and Rachel Kinney (Murray State).
“I think what’s nice is they get to know me before we’re in the pressure of games, so it definitely helps,” Thompson said of so many players adjusting to a new head coach. “I think this group is having a smooth transition. I think some other teams may struggle with it but I think they’re doing a really great job and they’re just eager to learn and want to get better.”
In addition, assistant coach Sofia Lopez Acosta returns for a second season.
In their practices they are looking to be high-energy and high speed as they prepare for games, which are likely to happen in the spring.
“The energy is really high in practice. Personally, I’m high-energy and so is Sofia so I think it helps but I think if you were to take us two out of it, it would still be super high-energy. They just want to have fun and play. I think they’re just really excited to be back in the gym and playing,” she said.
Also, Thompson is preaching to the players that it is okay to make mistakes in practice and to quickly shake it off as they work through new systems that they are learning.
“We’ve implemented a lot of new systems and they’re doing a really good job picking up quickly. It has been ugly at times but I tell them it’s okay for it to be ugly now while we’re working through the process of it. I’d rather us work on the technique and be good at the technique than have it be ugly so then eventually when the technique is good everything will look good,” she said.
Overall, the team is just looking to get better during this challenging fall.
“A big thing we talk about is if we make a mistake we’re onto the next ball, and then also just looking to the future and being positive and the mentality is to get one percent better every day.”