‘Belief in each other’ motivating Ospreys ahead of ASUN quarterfinals

John Watson, Sports Editor

Featured Image: Justin Nedrow

After almost a year and a half, postseason volleyball will finally return to the ASUN Conference. The moments an athlete dreams about are just a bump, spike and a kill away. It’s finally time for the 2021 ASUN volleyball tournament.

Eight teams are set to embark on a single-elimination tournament where one will be crowned champion following the championship match on April 3. All teams will start their journey to the history books today with quarterfinal matches throughout Saturday.

The Ospreys are on the hunt for their first ASUN title in program history as their best finish was a runner-up finish in 2012. They are set to face the Stetson Hatters at 7 p.m. at UNF Arena in the first post-season meeting between the two teams.

Having finished the season with an 8-4 conference record, the UNF Ospreys will square off with the Stetson Hatters on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the UNF Arena (Justin Nedrow)

While postseason history hasn’t been favorable for the Ospreys, this season has been memorable for the squad on and off the court. Leading the league in digs (1,101), kills (863) and service aces (100), this year’s squad has been lighting up the scoreboards and the scoresheets. 

According to head coach Kristen Wright, this team has the ingredients of a championship team. All the puzzle pieces have been coming together, and the team is peaking at the right time. Coach Wright believes that this team is destined to do big things as the postseason arrives.

“At this time, it’s about our bodies and a high level of execution,” Wright said. “How we’re able to execute, what we want to execute and the small adjustments… it’s also about beliefs.”

Belief is one of the more prominent things Coach Wright has been inspired by as her team heads to the court for their postseason matchup. In Wright’s third season at the helm for the Ospreys, she led the team to an impressive 8-4 record in conference play, with 12 matches being split among three teams.

The Ospreys started the year off with some tough matches against squads such as UCF, USF and Clemson. The 3-2 loss they suffered to Clemson was an early turning point in the season where the team gained confidence after going toe to toe with a power five program. With this being the last non-conference game the Ospreys played, the only way to go was up.

After going 1-5 in non-conference, UNF knew they would have some tough matchups ahead. The conference schedule would be a modified one, with the ASUN being split into north and south divisions. The Ospreys, in the south division, played FCGU, JU and Stetson, and played each team four times.

One of those teams was ASUN preseason favorite FGCU, who finished the season with an 8-2 conference record. The two losses came at the hands of the Ospreys. 

“Sweeping them at their place on the second time we played them shows the improvement by the girls,” Wright said. “It’s really fun to coach.”

While the team has stayed in the game on the court, the dedication has translated off the court as well, as the team has stayed COVID-free the entire season and played a full schedule. Coach Wright credited her team’s commitment and their dedication to staying healthy and on the court. With the right leadership and excellent chemistry, the timing has all added up.

Coach Wright emphasized that the leadership of Gabby O’Connell, Rocio Moro and Julianna Askew has led this team in an inspiring direction.

Leadership on and off the court has fueled UNF to their best conference win percentage in program history (Justin Nedrow)

“They’re on the court all the time for our team,” Wright said. “So it also helps that they are hard-working and produce. They hold the bar, and they’re positive and easy to follow. They know what the team needs.”

With their best ASUN winning percentage since joining league play and their first winning conference season since 2016, the Ospreys are looking forward to making waves this postseason. Their match against the Stetson Hatters will start at 7 p.m. and be seen on ESPN+ and at the UNF Arena. Follow @UNFSpinnaker on Twitter for live updates and a postgame recap.


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