August 15, 2018 2:01:20 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Julie Darty isn't going to make excuses.
The first-year Mississippi State volleyball coach also isn't going to allow her players to use their relative inexperience as a crutch. Of the 11 players new to MSU, four are transfers and seven are freshmen. Some coaches might use those facts to downplay her team's chances for success.
Darty isn't buying it.
"The standard is pretty high, and we came in and set the standard high," Darty said. "We made sure they understood what the standards were. They're policing each other and holding each other to those standards."
Halfway through the preseason, Darty likes what she has seen from her team as it prepares for its season opener against Mississippi Valley State at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 24, in the StarkVegas Classic at the Newell-Grissom Building.
MSU will feature two chances to see the team in action prior to the season opener. On Thursday, MSU will hold its inaugural Volleyball 101, which will serve as a primer about the sport of volleyball. On Sunday, MSU will hold its annual Maroon and White scrimmage. Both events are free and open to the public at the Newell-Grissom Building.
Darty comes to MSU after serving as head coach at Jacksonville for four years. In 2014, Darty led Jacksonville to the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament in her first year as a collegiate head coach.
Darty also served as an assistant coach at South Carolina for two seasons. She plans to use her recruiting ties throughout the Southeast to transform a program that has had nine winning seasons in 43 years.
Darty said she doesn't plan to talk about the past. Instead, she said she intends to sell herself and her vision for a program she feels can climb the ladder in a conference that has been dominated by Florida and Kentucky in recent years.
Junior setter Alleah Stamatis, a transfer from Jacksonville, knows from experience Darty doesn't stand for excuses. She said that has become apparent to her new teammates very quickly.
"I think we are all really excited to be here, ready to go, and take a huge step forward for the program," Stamatis said. "We are all on one page, and ready to take giant leaps both individually and as a team. We are ready to get better every day."
Sophomore libero / defensive specialist Gabby Zgunda echoed Stamatis' comments and said the Bulldogs are "trusting the process." She said they know it will take time to create a tradition in the volleyball program, but she said the players trust each other to get it done.
"I think trust is a big thing and consistency," Zgunda said. "I do not think youth has anything to do with it. I think if we together work as a team, we are consistent, and we trust each other, that's what we are working toward."
MSU is coming off a 10-23 (1-17 Southeastern Conference) campaign in 2017. David McFatrich resigned after the season, his third in Starkville. The Bulldogs have had only four winning seasons in the last 18 years. Darty is the fifth head coach in that span, but she won't use that turnover as an excuse not to get the job done -- and neither will the Bulldogs.
"I think we do a good job at holding ourselves at a higher standard," freshman outside hitter Paige Shaw said. "We are all on the same page, and I think that is going to work very well for us."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.