Last season was Dennis Hohenshelt's first as the head coach of the Virginia volleyball team, and it was the beginning of a rebuilding period. The 'Hoos finished the season with just 9 wins, and they remind themselves of that everyday.
"Our code to our locker room is actually our record from last season, so it's definitely a constant reminder of what last year was,” says junior outside hitter Tori Janowski.
This year the Cavaliers have a winning record, both overall and in the ACC. They're 15-11 overall and 8-6 in the ACC, having won 5 of their last 6 matches. With six matches left, they have a chance to finish with a winning record in the conference for the first time since 2007.
Hohenshelt attributes the Cavaliers' success this season in part to a talented group of freshmen who are making an impact right away. He also says his team is completely buying in to both his system and his coaching style.
"I'm tough," Hohenshelt says of his style. "I know I'm tough. I'm pretty hard on them at times. I think the best way to describe it is I'm honest with them. And I tell them I'm going to be honest with them whether they're good or bad, I'm going to be honest with them."
"He's a really great motivator," adds senior libero Emily Rottman. "He'll tell you when you're doing something wrong and he'll tell you if you're doing something right. At practice, it's very competitive, high energy and he just really lets us go for it."
Hohenshelt’s system and his staff aren’t just helping the 'Hoos win, they have also helped change the culture of the program.
"There is definitely more of a bond," Janowski said. "All the coaches try to create relationships with each and every single one of us, and all of us really respect them for that."
"The culture has definitely changed a lot," adds Rottman, who hasn't experienced a winning season in her four-year UVa career. "We're definitely a closely tight group now. We all want to play for each other, which is a huge difference. And the coaches really care for us and it's obvious in how they coach us."
The Cavaliers goal now is to win out and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, something Hohenshelt knows all about. He was an assistant at Penn State for six seasons and helped coach the Nittany Lions to four straight NCAA titles.
"It's what the goal is every year, plain and simple, is to get to the tournament," he says. "When you get in the tournament anything can happen. So that's always our goal is to get there. For this group, for how hard they worked, to get there would be really rewarding."