BY PETER MERCANDETTI
“I’ve been waiting for this, and it is important that we do it right, and to have a real team.”
These were the words that Coach Kelly Herrmann addressed the Franciscan women’s volleyball team with when becoming the new head coach. A coach with 20 years of experience between basketball and volleyball, Herrmann started coaching women’s volleyball for Franciscan in 2003. Now in her 10th year with the Lady Barons, Herrmann acknowledges that the program has come a long way since she took over coaching duties. Herrmann likened the experience to “climbing up a long set of stairs, like the ones that lead to the rugby field.” While many challenges have been overcome, there is still work to do.
Herrmann stated that joining the NCAA in the 2011-2012 academic year was a huge step in the right direction for the program.
“The NCAA is a well-established and respected organization,” Herrmann affirmed, “and it brought the consistency to the program that we really needed.”
Joining the NCAA was so vital to the program because it gave the team the opportunity to compete consistently, and ultimately, improve. Herrmann said that previously, as just a varsity team, it was much more difficult to play other teams on a regular basis.
“When you schedule outside the NCAA, there is nothing binding the other teams to their commitment, and teams would often cancel on us,” Herrmann said, “and that is particularly frustrating to a lot of people.”
Since joining the NCAA, Herrmann acknowledged that the team has been “consistently climbing toward the top.” Herrmann also affirmed that the Lady Barons have not only gained the respect of other teams in the conference, but also have become one of the feared teams. Their opponents no longer see the Lady Barons as “little Franciscan.” Gaining that respect was vital to the program’s success, and was by no means an easy hurdle to overcome.
“Gaining respect is a tough battle,” Herrmann said. “As Catholic-Christians, we have a tendency to be tenacious and view competition as a bad thing. God really wants us to be our best, on and off the court, physically, relationally, spiritually and also academically.”
Herrmann stated that while the team has improved significantly over the last couple years, they are still not yet on the top. Herrmann said that the ultimate goal for the team is winning the AMCC conference championship.
“In order to win the championship, we more than likely will have to beat Penn State-Behrend, a team we have never beaten before.” Herrmann went on to assure that “only then will complete respect in the conference be earned.”
Herrmann confirmed that her relationship and contact with the players is what truly makes her job so enjoyable, as well as a blessing.
“Coaching women who are both beautiful and faithful is truly a unique experience,” Herrmann said, “and that is the best part of my job.”