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The new scent coming from the St. Mary’s College of Maryland volleyball court is that of roses.
Landing her first career head coaching job ever with the Seahawks in April, first-year head coach Rose Burke looks to plant her seeds of success within the program and watch those seeds hopefully sprout Capital Athletic Conference championships.
“I was just relieved and excited and nervous and it was a mix of emotions,” Burke said of being named head coach. “I remember coming into my first practice and you don’t want to ever say the wrong thing or say something completely wacky on your first day. I just thought back to the head coaches that I’ve had in the past and I just tried to pull the things that, as a player, I liked about those coaches.”
Burke brings in with her a host of championships, winning three Big Sky Conference championships while playing in college as a member of California State University, Sacramento and a Sun Belt Conference championship as an assistant coach at Florida International University in 2009.
“I certainly hope that comes here,” sophomore Autumn Fisher said in jest. “We just always want the best from our team and our coach, especially.”
Fisher and senior Michelle Klima were recently named the two volleyball team captains for 2013 and will be part of the adjustment period as Burke replaces previous head coach Morris Davis, who coached the Seahawks for nine seasons.
“It’s definitely different,” Klima said, “but she obviously knows what she is doing. We have had really hard practices that I think will definitely translate onto the court well. The girls are all clicking together well and we’re starting to play as a team really early in the season which is really good to see.”
Fisher said that Burke has been doing a great job as head coach.
“She has definitely adjusted well and we have adjusted to her,” Fisher said. “She is a lot different than coach Davis, but she does bring a lot to the table. ... She is not as intense, but she has been great at coaching styles. ... Everything has been going great.”
Burke and the Seahawks will walk onto the court for the first time in the regular season Saturday in a tri-match at Randolph-Macon College (Va.) against the hosts and North Carolina Wesleyan College.
A 21-9 season last year ended in the CAC semifinals, but with Burke’s championship pedigree, she and the Seahawks have their eyes on an eventual CAC title.
“It’s hard for me to speak to the competition of our conference considering I‘ve never seen any of the teams play before,” Burke said. “But from what I can see and with what our team possesses, we definitely have a great opportunity ahead of us to compete for that championship. I really want us to take care of ourselves and do what we need to do and I don’t see why we can’t win one this year or in the following year.”
Klima, an outside hitter, and returning sophomore Mandy Godspeed, a middle blocker, both were named to the All-CAC team last year, Godspeed earning conference Rookie of the Year honors.
And Klima also has her eyes set on making a deep and successful run through the season.
“Based on the practices that we’ve had so far, I think that it is definitely a possibility that we could go very far this year,” Klima said.
And if the Seahawks can get to and win a CAC title during any point of Burke’s tenure with the program, everyone can take a second to smell the roses.
“This is my first head coaching job, so it’s going to be a really fun thing for me this season,” Burke admitted. “From working with different programs, I was ready to be a head coach.”
St. Mary’s College of Maryland volleyball
Head coach: Rose Burke (first season)
Last year: 21-9, 4-2 (tied for second in CAC with Marymount (Va.) and Mary Washington (Va.))
Athletes to watch: OH Michelle Klima (Sr., All-CAC), MB Mandy Godspeed (So., All-CAC ROY), S/RS Mimi Graf (Fr.)
Key personnel losses: S Dani Thorne (All-CAC), HC Morris Davis
Strengths: Burke mentioned that the team works together well and that they are great teammates to each other. She mentioned that aspect of a team is something a coach cannot teach or coach to a team. Burke mentioned that the team works hard in practice, but as equally as important, her squad are fast learners.
She said the quick learning curve is important with her asking the squad to do things a bit differently than they have in the past. She said they have responded well.
Weaknesses: Burke admitted that the team is not very deep for one reason or another. She admits that with the lack of depth, an injury or two could really put the team in a tight spot. However, a healthy team will amount to a deep enough roster to proceed through the season.
Coach’s comments: “I definitely want to match last year’s record. I think that I have a couple of really good freshmen, so I would really like to go for the [CAC] Rookie of the Year again and get it back to back. That would be a great accomplishment for us. I know as a new head coach, I am going to make mistakes, so for me, personally, I’d like to grow as a head coach.”
Key matches: Oct. 5 vs. Penn State-Harrisburg (Pa.), Oct. 8 vs. Salisbury, Oct. 26 vs. Wesley (Del.), Oct. 30 at Mary Washington (Va.)
JAMES A. McCRAY III