Rawson: ‘Backs out, hearts in’

Jessalyn Castro

Midwestern State University's women's volleyball team runs drills and scrimmages during practice, Tuesday, September 1, 2015. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Midwestern State University’s women’s volleyball team runs drills and scrimmages during practice, Tuesday, September 1, 2015. Photo by Francisco Martinez

New head volleyball coach Natalie Rawson is working from the ground up with this year’s team to build what she believes her vision of MSU volleyball should be.

“I definitely brought a lot of new stuff to the team if you ask the girls,” Rawson said. “Which is challenging for them learning new systems and new ways to hit a ball or pass a ball or dig a ball.”

Rawson said change can be tough for the players but they have adapted to her style.

“Definitely the systems that we run, defensively and offensively, have been a lot of new stuff for them,” Rawson said. “A lot of the team concepts and rules and expectations are all so new to them and they’ve done well adapting to it.”

Rawson said the most important thing stressed in practices is the discipline of the fundamentals that they train.

“I’m really on them in practices to do things the correct way, to just train themselves through reps and being intentional about what they’re doing, so that when they get in the game it just happens,” Rawson said.

With a lot of intensive training going on in practices, mass communication senior Hunter Porter  said she has had to adjust to new environment.

“She’s changing the way that everybody swings, all the hitters are starting over from zero basically, she changed our entire defense, the way that we stand defensively and the way that we serve.” Porter said. “Everybody is starting on the same ground zero page.”

The changes extend off the court as well. Porter said even the attitude in the locker room is a different from last year.

“Last year we’d come in the locker room and everybody would just be so tense and negative,” Porter said. “We come in now and spend 45 minutes in the locker room before practice just laughing and being girls.”

To bring that attitude on the court to have a successful season, Porter said working together as a team is the key.

“Last year we had a lot of good individual talent but we couldn’t put it together to work in a cohesive unit so we’re really working on unity right now,” she said. “Other than one person being our main point leader, our main blocker, or our main leader, everybody has a role and everybody fills it.”

Porter is the single senior on the team consisting mostly of underclassmen with eight freshmen.

“We have a really young team so improvement and patience in this process is a big goal for us,” Rawson said.

Rawson said the downfall of having a young team is the lack of experience and the time it takes to get them on board with the speed of the game.

“The great part is that they’re very open minded, they’re very willing and eager to learn and to want to improve and they want to make an impact,” Rawson said. “They’re giving me basically all they’ve got, which is great.”

Mass communication freshman Kelsey Purcell said she has improved in the short time she has been on the team.

“Our first practice started at midnight and ended at 3 a.m. That was pretty crazy,” Purcell said. “I’ve seen so much progress over the last couple weeks.”

Purcell said she believes this team will be able to turn it around to improve last year’s record.

“Overall the team dynamic and the structure is going to be a lot stronger and we’re going to make people actually believe in us this year,” Purcell said.

Getting rid of a lot of negativity and making a positive change is what Porter believes will allow the team to move forward.

“Our slogan is, ‘backs out, hearts in,’ and as long as we stick to what that means to us, we’re going to be 10 times better than where we were last year,” Porter said.

Being the oldest and only senior on the team, Porter is able to lead and also learn from the younger players.

“I’m five years older than some of the girls on the team so keeping up with them sometimes is hard,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of energy but I think that’s what we need. We need the energy, we need the fresh look because we’ve had a dark cloud over us and I think bringing in new people is just that fresh start that we needed.”

Rawson said she believes she needs to get involved in the community to build the vision she has for volleyball.

The team sponsors a new program called Pony In Training for kids in the community to get involved. When the kids sign up they receive a T-shirt and game card, and every home game they attend there are different activities for them to participate in.

“Every home game that they come to there will be something fun for them to do with the girls,” Rawson said.

Getting involved with the community and in building a strong team bond, Rawson said getting better everyday is the ultimate goal.

“The focus is not the record or the title, we don’t really talk about a record that we expect to have. If we can hit these goals wins will happen but we can’t focus on the winning we have to focus on the path that gets us there,” she said. “We’re not going to talk about what we’re going to do, we’re going to let our actions show it. We talk about it in the way we train but we don’t talk about it as ’this is the result we wan.’ Our goal is to come in, train everyday and results will happen.”

Rawson, an MSU assistant volleyball coach from 2010 to 2012, replaced Venera Flores-Stafford who now works as an assistant athletic director. Flores-Stafford was removed as volleyball coach in February.