One Love, One Pod

by Jessica Garza-Hutmacher

Horizon Reporter

The game consists of the libero, setter, outside, opposite, right side and middle blocker. This forms a basic volleyball team, six out of nine players on the Whatcom Community College Women’s Volleyball team.

Jeff McDonald along with his assistant coach Courtney Schneider and his close-knit team of nine, also known as the “pod,” have a team stronger than ever, considering their size. McDonald says he wanted only nine.

Last season McDonald and the Lady Orcas brought in rank 5 in the NWAACC (Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges) bracket; to get into the tournament the team has to rank top three in the region.

Coach McDonald is “feeling really confident” about the success of the team because the “last two years they have competed for first place,” he says. This year he tells us that in the conference it’s always “been a battle with Bellevue and Shoreline”. He has high hopes that the women will beat them, because “they are beatable” says McDonald.

Sophomore star and outside hitter Emily Jovanovich, “represents the team and has a realistic view of playing.” McDonald says.

It’s “definitely different, I’ve never been on a small team,” Jovanovich says. Because of the unusual size, the team practices and focuses a lot more on technique. “Everyone has good ball control and the positions can be interchangeable,” notes Jovanovich, which she says isn’t typical for most teams. She also states that the size of the team is a “give and take” situation; however, Jovanovich has benefitted greatly. The 5’10’’ outside hitter is an “all-around player” because of her commitment to the team, and being coached in proper fundamentals by McDonald.

Freshman Kathryn Bailey, injured from a previous match, had a different view of the size on the team. “It’s really awesome that the coaches practice with us, most don’t” Bailey said. She included the many pros of the small “pod” they have developed. Along with her mentors, she agrees that their situation makes the women “better and more competitive.” Bailey says that although practices are difficult because there are always gaps in the court, it is “really good for games because everyone gets to play.”

Due to their size, fitness must be an essential part of practice to maintain healthy athletes. McDonald said that even if “one or two girls get sick it makes it harder”. What he also mentions is that he only gets a couple of hours a day with the girls and would rather focus on other aspects of the game. Although he admits there should be more “lifting and training”, he prefers to work on the fundamentals.

“Coach doesn’t like to work on conditioning during practice, he likes to work on technique,” said Bailey. She explains how the team “should want to be fit” and he expects the women to condition outside of practice. “We try to do it as a team when we can,” Bailey added.

            Coach McDonald wanted a good mix of skills and wanted nine “starters.” He feels that his nine works better than the typical 12-15. Both McDonald and Jovanovich agree it is better having “nine strong players who want to play and have a good attitude.”

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