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Falcons use spring games to rebuild following loss of 7 seniors

The spring season has come to an end for the Falcons, but their journey to next season has just begun.

In the spring, the Falcons looked to create new team chemistry after the loss of seven seniors from last season, according to head coach Danijela Tomic. She said a team’s chemistry is “crucial” for young teams especially.

“A big goal for us this spring was to develop a good team chemistry and for our players to be better teammates to each other and develop some leadership skills because of the large senior group that we have graduating,” Tomic said.

Tomic said it was great for next year’s team to be able to play with those seven seniors and learn from them.

“It’s part of college sports,” Tomic said. “It’s a bittersweet thing for us as coaches. You want to see them graduate … but we will definitely miss some aspects of their presence on the court, but it’s time for some kids to step up and leave their mark.”

Next season the Falcons will have two seniors in setter Erica Fullenkamp and middle hitter Kelsey Bates. They will have no juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen.

Incoming freshman Paige O’Connor graduated early from high school and enrolled to BG in January, so she is the only of her classmates to be practicing with the team during this spring. Tomic said O’Connor has made tremendous improvements in just the four months she has been with the team.

The remaining four will come during session two of summer school and start training with the team in August.

Fullenkamp said their youthful team is adjusting well to accepting new, more significant roles so far.

“Every year every team in the country faces the same thing we do,” Fullenkamp said. “We’re adjusting very well. I’m very excited about the team chemistry and how we’re getting along on the court.”

The goal for this year’s spring season was to focus on individual technical training. Tomic said the spring allows for more of that type of training whereas in the fall there is less time to do so.

“My philosophy is we want them to come every day with the attitude of getting better,” Tomic said. “We want them to have that mindset that this is a process … but [they need to] keep the attitude of liking or loving the learning process.”

The team has been practicing at a very high level and are seeing the results, Tomic said.

“All of them have made such big improvements,” Tomic said. “We ask them in practice just to get better a little bit, one one-hundredth better than yesterday, in our spring season and when you add all of that it’s going to be a big improvement.”

Fullenkamp said it is the natural process to take more of a leadership role as a senior and as a setter, and she is happy to be in a position where her teammates trust her in that role. However, she said Tomic tries to instill that leadership in every single player, regardless of their class.

“[Fullenkamp] is doing some things I have never seen her do before,” Tomic said. “With her improvement in her position being a setter, I think [she] will have the best season of her college career her senior year.”

Bates too is embracing leadership roles on the team. She also said defensive specialist Amanda Schiavo, who will be a sophomore come next fall, has stepped up into that role with how hard she works, making progress every day.

Desi Klaer, who was a redshirt freshman last season for the Falcons, has become a much more dynamic and athletic player, said Tomic.

“She’s [Klaer] probably made the biggest strides of everybody,” Tomic said. “I would think she’s the most improved this spring. She looks like a different player pretty much than what she was in the fall.”

The middle and defensive specialists have been two of the more competitive spots on the team for next fall, said Tomic. Fullenkamp said her team has been focusing a lot on getting the middle hitters involved more this season.

“A major area that we’ve been focusing on with me as a setter is my connection with the middles,” Fullenkamp said. “Years previous we were always really strong on the pins … but this year we see our middles as being a really big threat to the other team.”

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