Hasani Salaam and Tiffany Phillips converged at the net for a block against the University of Pikeville. Synchronized, they both jumped from their left foot first, strength and practice propelling their bodies upward. Two sets of arms traveled over their head, their hands coming together in motions they had practice for some years now. Behind them, four girls waited in position, ready to save the ball from hitting the Convocation Center court. However, Salaam and Phillips didn’t need help. If anyone had attended a Gold Nuggets’s volleyball game prior to this year, they would only recognize four of the 15 team members. That’s because the Gold Nuggets signed 11 new players this season—two transfers, nine freshman. Despite the newcomers, head coach Hannah Lawing says it hasn’t been as hard handling all those new personalities as she thought it would be.
Mostly it was because the two transfers—Monet Fontaine and Juliana Tomasoni—were already used to the college climate, according to Lawing. It also helped that six of the nine freshman attended summer classes at Xavier University of Louisiana, which helped them be introduced to the volleyball system at Xavier prior to the season. “Really, it was like introducing only three newcomers,” said Lawin “It made our transition less difficult than in the past where everybody [the new players] flooded in at once.” Of course, not all has been gold for the Gold Nuggets, as they currently hold a record of 6-10. While there is room for improvement, Lawing said she didn’t like to think of things as “bad.”
Some of things the Gold Nuggets have to improve are their confidence and aggressiveness at the net, according to their head coach. Lawing stated that they tended to be a timid and shy, and they also lacked the communication and energy they needed on occasion— however, those are areas they have been steadily progressing in. “It’s the little things that don’t necessarily come together right away, but that’s okay because we’ll be patient,” Lawing said. While most students are sleeping at 5 a.m., the Gold Nuggets are awake and practicing at the Recreational Center. Not only are they awake, but they’re alert, ready, and eager to fight for their positions, according to Lawing. They also do everything off the court that they need to, too. “They’ve been doing a good job of showing up to practice every day and wiping those tired eyes away,” Lawing laughed. “Even though it’s 5 a.m.”
While spectators see them playing, it’s what they do at practice that prepares them for the games. According to Lawing, the Gold Nuggets fix their communication problem by stopping a drill if there is a lack of communication. They point out the problem, and then the women get a second chance at the same kind of situation, and usually that is when they start to learn that behavior. “Repetition is what they need when they’re young and learning a new system,” Lawing added. After starting their season 1-9, the Gold Nuggets have picked up their play winning three of their last six matches, two of which have come on the road against Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference (GCAC) members Tougaloo College and Edward Waters College. Going into the rest of the season, this 15 member roster—which includes freshman: Brittanie Cockerel; Phillips; Adili Rikondja; Salaam; Amanda Perry; Bria Moore; Terri Drake; Taylor Ducros; and Cara Ford; sophomores: Fontaine and Sarah Pitts-Groce; juniors: Kaelan Temple and Tomasoni;and seniors Kayla Jones and Ralitsa Slanchev—have the home court advantage with 7 of their next 10 games being at home. Next up the Gold Nuggets take the court Thursday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Convocation Center. against Springhill.