Women’s Volleyball: Building Chemistry through Geography

Published on: September 22, 2023

Women’s Volleyball: Building Chemistry through Geography

Volleyball vagabonds: Tori Burgess (Delray Beach, Florida), Emma Dobberstein (Dundee, Michigan), Ryen Hawkey (Tea, South Dakota), Austin Raymer (Purcellville, Virginia), Nayeli Cruz (Carolina, Puerto Rico), and Dani Smith (Morinville, Alberta).

Every head coach wants to attract talented players, but Alicia MacGlaughlin has also prioritized another recruitment goal – geographic diversity.

The 16-woman roster for this year’s volleyball team includes players from distant corners of America and beyond: Florida, Michigan, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Virginia, and Alberta, Canada.

“My goal is to recruit out of our local region,” says Coach MacGlaughlin. “We’re trying to branch out and diversify. I think it adds a lot to the culture of the team and opens people’s eyes. We’ve had players from Oregon, Texas, California, and Oklahoma.”

A coach at Neumann since 2011 and head women’s volleyball coach since 2014, she believes that bonding with players from beyond the local footprint of the Atlantic East Conference is an educational experience that improves team chemistry on and off the court.

“Each region of the country has its own ideals, its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. I want the girls to experience different cultures.”

She has witnessed firsthand how team members whose homes are far from campus mix and interact with local players and their families. “Something as simple as being invited to a teammate’s home for Sunday dinner can create a bond that lasts beyond sports,” she explains.

Dani Smith, who grew up in Morinville, a small town in Alberta, wanted to go to college away from home. Because she was recruited during the COVID pandemic, she enrolled without visiting campus and is happy with her choice, referring to teammates as “my family” in the States.

“I think it is beneficial having teammates from different parts of North America because we all get to learn about different parts of our world,” she says. “I know I teach my teammates and friends all about Canada and how it can be different and similar to here.”

Ryen Hawkey, a player from South Dakota, agrees. “I love having friends and teammates from so many different parts of the country because I get to learn about them and how they do things in their communities. I also think the diversity helps us as a team on the volleyball court.”

For many players, Neumann’s coach and proximity to Philadelphia were influential factors. “I chose Neumann because of the location (very close to the airport, beach, and big cities), small class sizes, and the team culture Neumann has,” says Smith.

“Coach Mac was one of the biggest reasons I chose Neumann,” recalls Emma Dobberstein, who came to Delaware County from Dundee, Michigan. “Over the phone, she wanted to learn about me and who I was off the court, too.”

MacGlaughlin, who lives in Prospect Park and teaches at Ridley High School, tries to schedule a long-distance trip for her squad every other year. In October, they travel to Puerto Rico.

“Nayeli Cruz, the young woman on our team from Puerto Rico, is ecstatic,” says MacGlaughlin. “Her whole family is coming to see her play.”

It’s a new opportunity for her young women to learn about another culture.





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