What the Game Means to Me- A Blog by FY MK Saladino

Volleyball has meant many different things to me over the years. When I first started my volleyball journey, it was just a fun sport I decided to play to get involved and make friends in high school. Little did I know, it would be a huge part of my life. I knew I loved the sport right away. My determination to get better and love for the sport grew rapidly. Volleyball started to mean so much more. It started to mean commitment, drive and determination. My teammates became my family and I developed a huge attachment to the sport. It became a part of who I am. I would think about volleyball all the time and strove to get better at what I loved to do. I would go to practice after school and then get home and continue to practice against my garage door until it got dark out. After school season ended I joined club and always hated leaving practice or tournaments because I just wanted to play all the time. It became my escape. Every time something would happen in my life that would make me upset I just wanted to play volleyball and be able to forget about my worries for the amount of time that I was on the court.

IMG_6870My high school team was the reason for my love of the game and it’s meaning to me. I never knew that a group of girls could cause so much joy in my life. My high school teammates became an extension of my family. I love each of them like sisters and could call up any one of their moms and talk to them as if they’re my own. They influenced the meaning of the game for me. Playing with them was my escape from everything else going on in my life. With them the game meant family and I played for them. I never thought I would find a team that I fit in with so well again. I didn’t think someone could be lucky enough to have two teams that every single person meant so much to them.

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This was until I started playing at SUNY Geneseo. I was pleasantly surprised when I became so close with my team here at Geneseo. It reminded me so much of my high school team and I love that about it.  It’s only been 7 months and I already have friendships that I know are going to last me a lifetime. Geneseo volleyball has influenced my life in such a positive way and shaped the meaning of the game for me. Today the game means grit, fight, and family. The game is a way for me to get away from everything else and just be fully invested in the moment on the court. Geneseo volleyball helps the meaning of the game develop into a stronger and deeper meaning to me. Now I play for my teammates who have taken me in and caused me to love the game of volleyball more than and more every day.

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My WHY ~

A good way for an athlete to find and fuel their fire within is to know their “WHY?”. What is your reason to play the game? Why do you do this all day every day? Once you find this why, you know what you want, why you want it and you are able to invest all of your time into being the player you want to be. When you have a clear and compelling WHY for your work, it becomes easy to adopt a “buy in” mentality. There are countless reasons as to why I play this amazing sport, but I’ll focus just on a few of them.

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#1 – Want to Prove People Wrong

When I was in high school, I was probably one of the shortest players on my travel team. A 5’9 outside hitter going up against 6’0 + blockers. So many coaches doubted the fact that I could thrive as a hitter due to my height. At first, I didn’t think that I would be able to play this position either because I was that much smaller than everyone else and college coaches weren’t going to recruit me as an outside hitter. But there was a turning point my junior year in high school where I took all of these doubts and “short” comments and turned them into a challenge. I let them fuel my fire. I wanted to show every coach and every parent and player watching that being shorter than everyone else had no effect on the way that I play with these bigger girls. My favorite quote is, “It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.” This became my inner mentality. I became hungry to prove people wrong. After not giving up the position that I came to love, I was recruited to be an outside hitter for the Geneseo Volleyball team. That was the most satisfying moment because a coach noticed the way I played despite being the shortest one on in the front row.

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#2 – The way the game makes me feel

The second reason as to why I play this sport is because of the way it makes me feel. There is no better feeling than turning around to your teammates, embracing them after a point, cheering, jumping up and down and hitting the floor. It’s like everything else in the world just completely stops for a few seconds, and I am taken over by that moment. That is my happiness. I wish I could live that moment every second of every day. The game also allows me to release stress and helps me forget about other problems or responsibilities I have in my life. Those two plus hours that I am in the gym practicing is like heaven to me. I get to do the thing I love with the people that I love and not have to think about anything else while I am in that gym.

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#3 – To play for the people who can’t or for the little girl watching from the sidelines

My third WHY means the most to me. There are so many people that do not get the opportunity to play this sport or any sport for that matter. I play for them. Without volleyball, I have no idea where I would be, so to see people who are incapable of doing things like this fuels my fire. Lastly, I play for the little girl in the stands that wants to grow up and play volleyball. Since I was 11, my little sister Mia was at every one of my games cheering me on from the stands. While playing, I wanted to illustrate to her that this game is life changing. I would love to look over at her smiling ear to ear after certain points. That only made we want to be a better player, knowing that someday she will be doing the same, celebrating similar victories. Now, she has big plans to play division 1 volleyball at Bryant University. Proud of you Mia 🙂 – I’ll always be playing for you and because of you.

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I would not be the player I am today without finding my “WHY”. These reasons are my constant reminder to not take a single moment of this game for granted because one day I won’t lace my shoes up and step on the court again. So now I’ll ask you blog readers, what is your why? Whether it be playing a certain sport or just doing everyday things, what fuels your fire within to do the things you love?

A Thank You Letter- A Blog By FY Morgan Michalski

Hello blog readers! I am first-year Morgan Michalski here to share some love for the people that mean so much to me. Parents, coaches, friends, and most importantly the 13 crazy people I call my teammates, thank you for making my first year at Geneseo one I will never forget! I cannot write a thank you letter without thanking the best teammates in the world! Thank you for all the support and always making my days better, you are my second family. Now I want to send a HUGE thank you to my fellow freshies, Maddie and MK. I don’t think I could have asked for better people to spend the next 4 years with. So I would like to say thank you so much for being the best teammates I could ever wish for. Thank you for…

Great advice- Maddie, you always are willing to help when things aren’t going too well and I know I can alway count on you when I need some advice.

Enthusiasm during games- Maddie, I’ve enjoyed witnessing you progress from a mute on the court (her words, not mine) to finding your voice and becoming a beast! MK, your enthusiasm throughout games is so motivating and gives off such good vibes. And I already can’t wait to do our dab handshake before games again (it was so cringy).

Perseverance- We all know being a student athlete is tough sometimes so I want to thank you guys for never giving up on yourselves or others. Even on the court you are always working ‘til you get it right and it is done. Thank you for pushing yourselves through workouts and practices, knowing that you guys are working hard makes me push myself that much harder.

Listening to me talk…all the time- Now if anyone had joined us on our lovely walks back to South Side after practice, they would know that I talk from the time we leave the locker room to the time we part ways to our rooms. And even then I will be shouting to them until they are in thier building. So thank you for learning to tune me out occasionally, because half the time it’s absolute nonsense.   

Jeep vibes- Thank you for the times we spent in Maddie’s jeep. From driving to frozen yogurt on Mondays to taking the doors and top off and going for drives where we let MK pick directions (we went in a big circle), it has been a blast! Something I cannot go on without mentioning is your safaris– they insisted on taking the most adventurous path to get to practice while talking in an Australian accent– It was a pleasure being your camera man and intern (truly an honor) for Safari-SO-Good. Also, our trip to Walmart for our Halloween costumes, which I personally think ours were the coolest (sorry Juniors). Thank you, Maddie and the Maddiewagon for creating so many memories we will never forget.

Being great friends- I am so thankful that volleyball has brought us together. We are all so different but still so similar which leads to great times together. Thank you, Maddie and MK, for being incredible people who are not afraid to be yourselves. Thank you for being the open-hearted people you are. Thank you for coming along this journey as a knight with me and enjoying every second we have together. These next few years will go by so fast and I can not wait to see what the future has in store for the three of us.

A Letter to Who Inspires Me- By SO Alex Frank

Ever since 7th grade, volleyball has been my life. I remember walking into my middle school gym with the 100+ other girls trying out, and just hoping I would be good enough to make our modified team. I never could have guessed how much this sport would change my life in the next eight years, with a special thanks to all the people I have met and the lessons they brought with them on and off the court. Over these eight years, it was the people who were the best teammates and the hardest workers that inspired me the most.

Kendall White-Penn State Libero

Before I get sappy, I have to shout Kendall White out because of how dang cool she is. If you ever watch a Penn State volleyball game, you’ll see a little 5’5 number 3 surrounded by humongous players who has enough spunk to fill the entire stadium by herself. Every5a2cccb3c2dcd.image.jpg game her passion and intensity radiates through the gym and motivates everyone around her, even fans like me watching at home. My absolute favorite thing about her is her reaction when her teammates score a point: screams, aggressively shakes them, jumps, whatever she can do to show how excited she is for her team. I love that. Absolutely fearless. She inspires me to be my teammates’ biggest fan and to let my love for this sport be uncontained.

My Dad

Here’s to one of the biggest team players I know. Hall of Famer in highschool and college, my dad held the record at Ithaca for the most assists for 27 years. His record has finally been broken, but his legacy and selflessness has carried on to every aspect of his life. Lucky me, he’s been my teammate for 19 years and has been dishing out assists since I can remember. He took me to the batting cages, played 1v1 with Maddy, peppered with me outside, and brought me to the beach courts whenever we could. My dad works his butt off doing anything he can to make sure we and the people around him succeed. He inspires me to be the most selfless and devoted teammate I can be. He inspires me to work hard everyday, never doubt what we can achieve, and find any opportunity I can to do what I love.

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The GSUVB Family

I couldn’t have written this without including the people that I have learned so much from for the past couple years. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such unique girls that all bring different views of life to this family. They have taught me how to be a better teammate, friend, and person. One of my favorite lessons my team has taught me is to IMG_9509.jpgtake it one day at a time and let things surprise me. They inspired me to stop planning and to just appreciate everything and everyone around me. They motivate me to pursue what I’m passionate about and never settle. I am so thankful to have the greatest friends and and a community I can truly call my family.

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A letter to my younger self—A blog by JR Sam Mendelsohn

Well Sam, here you are. Beginning the second semester of your junior year being a student athlete at the place you have learned to call your second home. Did you ever think you would make it this far? Absolutely not. But are you incredibly happy with your decision to continue to play the sport you fell in love with at the mere age of 10? Absolutely. Let me tell you, the journey has not been easy and you have most definitely struggled, but the opportunities and people that this sport has brought into your life have made it all worth it.

Let me begin by saying thank you. Thank you, 10-year-old Sam, for taking the chance and trying out a new sport that was completely foreign to you. After multiple years of being on a strict softball and basketball regimen, you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried out volleyball at a summer camp. You were terrified, unsure, and timid, but you did it and became captivated from the moment that ball bounced off of your forearms. Granted it was a simple free-ball pass and probably did not look all that great, but you felt eager to learn and ready to improve. You knew it would be a challenge, as you witnessed girls only slightly older than you master the skills that you hadn’t even tried yet. But you stayed confident and focused.

Your love for the game became so strong that you chose to let softball and basketball go in exchange for trying out for a club volleyball team. That choice definitely was not an easy one for you to make, but you will soon come to realize that letting go of the good in your life can sometimes lead to great, new opportunities.

Trying out for a club team is something that I also admire you for. You knew it would be nerve-wracking and scary, but you worked hard and took in all of the feedback you were given to make the team that you wanted. Upon meeting your new teammates and coaches and working with other players, you will come to realize that you will be, without a doubt, the shortest person on all of your teams. High school, travel, summer leagues, and college—yep, you will be the smallest one on the floor. You will get constant comments, in abundance, about how small you are and how “interesting” it is that you chose to play a sport “only for tall people”. But, you will come to laugh them off and use them to fuel your fire. It took a while for you to get used to them and brush them off, but once you were able to take what people said and put it behind you, amazing things happened. You almost enjoyed hearing people doubt you because of your size, whether to your face or behind your back. It made you only that much more eager to lace up your shoes and get out on the floor to compete. This will become a part of your life as a volleyball player and you will begin to live by the quote, “I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong” by your all-time favorite athlete Derek Jeter.

Once high school hit you will be stressed most of the time, it is just the person you are. You try to squeeze everything into your schedule and struggle to say “no” to anything, ever. These 4 years will put you to the test, and even though in the moment you think you cannot handle it, you do, and come out a better person than you were when you started out. Juggling varsity practice at school, club practice, AP and honors courses, SAT/ACT prep, drivers ed., and making time for friends and family will definitely take a toll on you. Your busy schedule makes you question your love for the game and if it is all worth it. I remember these moments like they were yesterday—you in tears over how stressed out you are on that 30-minute drive to club practice. But, the second you stepped on that sport court, the pure liberation you felt became like an addiction for you and is something you look forward to constantly. The hours you put in in the gym and the endless nights you stayed up late studying will make you the person you are today—so keep up the hard work.

Oh Sam, if only you knew how perfect Geneseo is for you. A few years ago, when this decision seemed like the hardest one of your life and you could not decide where to go, you felt completely lost. You couldn’t decide if you wanted to play in college, what your major was to be, or how close/ far you wanted to be from home. The nights spent tossing and turning over what decision would be the right one for you would wear you thin. However, once that choice was made to play volleyball at Geneseo, you became the happiest girl on the face of the planet. If you knew what you did now, there wouldn’t be any questions asked about where you wanted to go to school—it would be Geneseo 120%.

Once your decision was made you were on cloud 9, but just you wait Sam—it is most definitely not all rainbows and butterflies. You took your time in adjusting and feeling comfortable with being yourself, but trust me, once you let your guard down you begin to bond with the people who will become your friends for life. Quickly you learn that you will need to push yourself 10x harder than you thought you ever could. In the classroom, weight room, on the court—every aspect of your life will require you to work that much harder. But, once again you found a way to enjoy every experience and face every challenge head on—ready to adjust and eager to do what it takes to succeed.

These past 3 years have been a true testament to your character as not only an athlete, but as an overall human-being as well. The responsibilities that you have been granted and your drive to be a supportive, competitive, and caring teammate, continuously put your physical and mental strengths to the test. Some days you have failed, some days you have succeeded, but you always enjoy every opportunity and continue to feel blessed that you are able to call yourself a member of the GSUVB family. This program has changed your life forever and the people you have grown to call your family influence your life every single day.

It most definitely has not been the smoothest ride, but every decision you have made has led you to this moment, exactly where you need to be. Thank you for trusting your heart and believing in yourself.

Oh, and one more thing. I know you think the whole “sparkly headband side ponytail” look is super cute, but I think you’ll be fine without it.

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’18-’19: A Look Back

Good afternoon, Knights fans! We hope you’ve been enjoying the holiday season with friends and family. The fall always flies by so fast, so we do our best to unplug this time of year and spend some quality time with those who have spent the last few months supporting us so well.

Just in time for the new year to roll around, we thought it would be a good time to look back on the successes of our 2018-2019 season. We’ll keep it short, sweet, and to the point — here’s a quick look back on our great year!

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With the historic season of ’17-’18 under our belts, the 2018-2019 campaign was even more exciting, competitive, and successful than its predecessor. With a returning squad of one senior, five juniors, six sophomores, and three first-years, this experienced and hungry team made waves in the SUNYAC Conference, our New York region, and left us even hungrier for more. Here’s a look at what the Knights accomplished this season:

  • 9-0 in SUNYAC play – first time in program history
  • 2x SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Year (Grace Cergol)
  • First athlete in program history to achieve 1,000 Career Dig + 1,000 Career Kill Club (Grace Cergol)
  • JR Libero Samantha Mendelsohn reaches 1,000 career digs
  • SR Setter Emily Ast reaches 3,000 career assists & sits at 2nd in record book with 3,453 career assists
  • First Knight to be named Rookie of the Year in 8 years (Maddie McLaughlin)
  • Four All-Conference Team Members (Cergol, Mendelsohn, Ast, Lougen)
  • #1 seed in SUNYAC Conference Tournament
  • Led SUNYAC Conference in kills/set (Cergol – 4.18) & service aces/set (Alex Frank – .64) for entire season
  • Ranked Top 10 in New York Region
  • Raised $2,800 for Side Out Foundation in Inaugural Dig Pink Match

It was a year full of success, grit, competition, and leaving it all on the court. We will say goodbye to one of our fearless leaders, senior setter Emily Ast, and are ready for 2019 to make its way to us. As we’ve said before, the culmination of our season left us a bit sad, very humbled, and more than anything, hungry for more.

So here’s to a great year and an even greater one to come. 2019, we’re ready for you.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours! GO KNIGHTS!

Senior Letter Series: Emily Ast

A letter to all of my teammates,

Over these past four years I have had the incredible opportunity of meeting so many wonderful people. Some of the most important people I have met have been the teammates I have gotten the privilege of sharing Schrader Gym with over these past four seasons. So, to the teammates I had when I came in as a Freshman to the teammates I have now, I want to say thank you. Thank you all for having the most incredible and significant influence on my collegiate years. Thank you for your kind hearts, open arms, and loving souls. And thank you for being some of my best friends that I know will last a lifetime, whether you’re in NY, Florida, or even the Netherlands.

So to start, I want to begin with the leaders I aspired to be when I was just a little baby freshman. So, to Pendles, Po, Lizzy, Beth, and Jia, thank you for being the most incredible role models for me, from my first day of preseason. I remember my first day meeting all of you on my recruiting visit and then again walking down to our team meeting before beginning our 2015-2016 season. Playing with you I remember your intensity and drive to win, but also the love you had for each other and everyone of your teammates. You showed me what it meant to be a part of Geneseo volleyball, which was so much greater than just a team but a real family. You watched out for us freshman every step of the way and made sure we were always taken care of, and never left behind. Thank you for being the start of what this program has become, and welcoming me into it, making Geneseo Volleyball feel like home.

Next to Trish, Courtney, Dani, Emma, Maddie, and Jess. One of my first memories with you guys was when you took Bain and I to the lake during preseason to see how we were doing and to get to know us since we would barely talk during practice. You never failed to make me laugh from the weird voices and dad jokes, to the just totally random things that would come out of your mouths. So, Emma, thank you for all of our slumber parties and late night chats, especially the ones that involved a lot of candy. Thank you to Trish and Maddie for being my mentors and someone I can always talk to when I need advice. Courtney and Dani, thank you you for always having my back and being genuinely great friends and people. And Jess, thank you for being the sweetest and most selfless, determined, and hardworking girl I have ever met. I will never forget all of your kind words and all of the laughs we shared so thank you for being such an incredible piece of my collegiate years and for staying in touch even though you’re not in Geneseo anymore.

Now to Grace, Sam, Kat, Shea, Abby, Kendyll and Scheff. The year your class came in was the year everything changed. You guys brought a spark to our team and pushed all of us older than you to be better. And now, we’ve had the last 3 years to get to know each other and I could not imagine playing a game without you guys by my side. You are the ones I can look to when I need advice on the court, the ones who challenge me to be better, and the weirdest group of friends who never fail to dance like maniacs or quote weird vines and make me laugh. Being your teammate reminds me why I love volleyball so much, and it is just the opportunity to go play the sport you love, and to have a fun time with your friends while doing it. So to all of you, thank you for being great leaders, for pushing this team to areas it had not been before, and for never forgetting to laugh and dance along the way.

Next, my little baby sophomores, Mary, Gabby, Bridget, Alex, Kiersten, Allison, Erina and Moose. I can’t even begin to explain the love I have in my heart for each and everyone of you. I literally see you guys in the gym and I can’t help but light up and smile. You fill my days with lots of hugs and never fail to make me feel special. You are all loads of fun, and some really insanely talented volleyball players. You came into the program filling big shoes, and never let our team skip a beat. You guys are leaders on the court, and honestly the real deal when it comes to being student-athletes. You push me to give 110% everyday because that is what every one of you gives everyday. You truly fill me with joy and have made practices and games such a fun and exciting place to be, filled with your competitive energy and fun-loving spirits. So, to each of you, thank you for all of the hugs and smiles you’ve brought to me over these last two seasons.

To the little freshman, Morgan, MK, and Maddie. Your excitement to learn and to be a part of Geneseo Volleyball is refreshing and pushes each of our teammates to challenge themselves to be better everyday. The way each of you has improved in just a few weeks is actually incredible and it makes me so happy to leave the program knowing such incredible people and players like you have just become a part of it. Even though you were all a little quiet at first, it’s been so fun to see you guys open up over the last few weekends and for all of us to really start having some fun times together as a team. So, thank you guys for your excitement to play and learn, and for reminding me that it is never too late to get better, even if I only have a few weeks left. I am so proud of everything you have done in these last few weeks- I can’t wait to come back and watch you play on your senior night.

Now Luca, I didn’t really know where to squeeze you in here so you will get a little paragraph for yourself. First, I want to thank you for taking a chance on a small college in upstate New York and for deciding to come play volleyball. I can’t imagine my sophomore season without you and the insane competitive edge and athleticism you brought over here with you. Thank you for being brutally honest sometimes, because at the end of the day sometimes that’s just what we needed. Thank you for consistently pushing me, for helping me find my voice, and for teaching me that it is okay to be firm, and to stand up for what I want/believe in. Thank you for opening up a door to a whole new world, and for always staying in touch, even with a postcard from India. And Luca, I promise you, I will come over and visit soon.

Now lastly, to my absolute best friends that I have met. Kaci and Madison , thank you for being the absolute coolest and funniest people I know. Thank you for such a genuine friendship, and for the endless laughs, late nights, Byrne Dairy runs, and never failing to be by my side and to help me crack a smile or laugh. Thanks for being weird with me always. And last but certainly not least to my best friend Sarah Bain. Even though you decided to graduate early and get ahead on being a real life adult I will never forget all of the fun memories we shared living together for 3 years. Thank you for always hitting up the vending machine with me, singing our favorite musicals at all hours of the night, for all of the cuddles, and being the one person I know I can count on for anything in this world. Thanks you guys for being by my side through these last 4 years and for a friendship like no other.

So, thank you to Geneseo Volleyball for bringing me the most incredible people and for filling my four years with plenty of smiles, laughter, sing alongs, inside jokes, and friendships that will last long beyond my time here.

Love, your teammate,

Emily Ast