After the most successful season in Wheaton Volleyball history, the team is gearing up for another deep conference run. Last year, the Lyons made it to the semifinals of the NEWMAC Conference tournament, before narrowly losing to the 17th ranked team in the nation, MIT, in five sets. Despite the loss of two seniors, the 2018 team has picked up where they left off, opening the season with an explosive 11-1 start.
Craig Letourneau, head coach of the volleyball program at Wheaton for the past 8 years, says that this team is different than teams in the past. For starters, the roster is much smaller, with only 11 players instead of a team ranging between 18-20 players. “When you have an abundance of players, it’s tough to keep them happy,” says Letourneau. “Having a smaller team helps them get to know each other really well and form a strong bond, as well as getting them more reps.”
Letourneau’s sentiment was echoed by senior Claire MacGregor: “There is a strong bond between all of us… We keep things very lighthearted, and normally break down laughing at least 5 times a practice, while at the same time, we are also incredibly driven.”
Despite their early success, the Lyon’s are not about to sit back and coast through their season. Instead, they are working to improve each and every day. Letourneau said that the team meets with a sports psychologist each week, to develop their mindset on competition. “You can only control the process,” says Letourneau. “You can’t control the outcome, you can’t control the wins and losses, but you can put yourself into a position to be successful on the court.”
Becca Houghton ‘20, the Lyon’s setter who recently broke 2000 career assists, credited the mental aspect as part of what makes the game special. “I love that volleyball is as much a mental sport as it is a physical sport,” said Houghton. “You can be a fantastic hitter, but without the mental aspect you won’t go far, so that makes it much more interesting.”
With their tight team culture and drive to improve, the women’s volleyball team deserves campus-wide attention. Their potential for success is only matched by their desire for it. “Last year we made Wheaton history with some of our wins,” said Claire Cansler ‘19. “This year, we just want to continue that history. There’s no better way to do that than with a conference championship.”