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On the defensive

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Buffalo State Athletics

Most players when they step on campus during their freshman year are just looking to fit in. They are trying to find their way to classes, and getting to know they lay of the land.

Freshmen athletes don’t tend to have a lot of high expectations for themselves. It’s not that they don’t want to start, and contribute right away, it’s just they know it will take time to get acclimated with school and a new system.

That;s why what sophomore volleyball player Maddie Hannon did was so impressive. As a freshman, Hannon played in every game for the Buffalo State College volleyball team. The experience she was able to get last year has given her that springboard into her sophomore season as thy Bengals have made a lot of noise in the SUNYAC.

“Last season I played every game and worked super hard on the few little things that still needed improvement,” stated Hannon. “In the off season it’s super important to train hard during the spring season to keep my body in shape. The biggest adjustment I feel was just being a freshman/being younger, playing at a college level and the environment. Personally, it was different playing with a bunch of new people for the first time when you were so used to playing overall with the same people whether it was high school/travel volleyball.”

Hannon has a very important job every time she takes the court for the Bengals. As a defensive specialist, Hannon knows she needs to be consistent every time she steps out on the court. She has to be able to provide the setter with the best ball possible as well.

It’s not as easy position to play on the court. There is a lot of pressure to make sure every pass you give is the best ball possible. Giving a good pass allows the hitters to their job, which is to put the ball away for a kill.

“Every time you step on the court you want to win and you want to play well. Overall being a defensive specialist has taught me that serve receive is a huge part of the game and being consist is so important,” stated Hannon. “As a back row player you are in charge of defending your side and giving the setter the best ball you possibly can. Being consistent and always trying to better the ball whether it’s out of system or if you have to send over the third ball. As a DS you always want to make sure you can give the best ball possible so our hitters can put the ball away.”

It’s a grueling position as well. Diving for those loose balls, hitting the ground hard all the time, can take a toll on the body. Hannon knows she won’t be able to go through an entire season without some sort of bumps and bruises.

Hannon does her best to get treatment after the games to keep herself fresh. That could be as simple as just icing down immediately after a game. Whatever it takes to be ready for the next day, and to help her teammates get the win.

“At times it becomes very difficult to fully keep your body 100%. Having job on the court that involves a lot of active moment can take a toll on many people,” stated Hannon. “I always make sure to ice after If I’m ever in pain, and to make sure I’m eating and drinking enough water to sustain my body.”

As much as she is an athlete, Hannon is a person first. Mental health has been at the forefront since the pandemic two years ago. Before the pandemic, it was just go, go, go for student-athletes. They were going to practice, then school, then games, then doing it all over again.

After the pandemic, student-athletes have taken a step back. They have looked at themselves in the mirror to see what is most important for them. A lot of athletes have come to the conclusion that need something else besides sports all the time.

They don’t want to be that robot that’s just programed to do the same thing over and over again. They want to be able to take time for themselves. They want to be able to have some kind of normal life that doesn’t include the daily routine.

This is why you have seen so many athletes over the past couple of years give up the sport they love to focus on themselves, and their mental well-being.

“Mental health is number one to me. It’s hard nowadays finding people you can talk to. Finding someone who 100 percent gets you and understand who you are and how you are feeling is hard. It’s so important to get help or find different resources if you can because student athletes mental health matters so much,” explained Hannon. “Having something outside of school/volleyball that you enjoy is super important, no matter what it is. I enjoy going outside and working when I have free time. Different environments are always good for you.”

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