Adam Cheek, Staff Writer
Volleyball’s senior class is one of the most decorated in the program’s history after back-to-back appearances in the Atlantic 10 final, an A-10 title and the team’s first NCAA appearance in 2017.
With eight seniors on the roster, coach Jody Rogers said she has strong core leadership.
“These players have been playing with me for four years now, so they know how everything runs,” Rogers said. “They’ve had a lot of success [and] can let the younger players understand what it takes to be at a high level.”
With the departures of only two seniors last year, the team is largely the same, but the roles of the eight seniors have changed.
“I feel more like [we’ve] kind of come together as a family,” senior outside hitter Vicky Giommarini said. “It’s really comfortable. And as a leader, I feel that they really understand whenever. … I find it difficult to express myself, I feel like they’re knowing me.”
During the seniors’ career at VCU, the Rams have recorded a winning record every season and a combined record of 80-31, including 27 straight victories in their 2017 campaign and a win at the A-10 championship.
Senior opposite hitter Gina Tuzzolo described the seniors’ chemistry and that of the rest of the team as a sort of nonverbal communication on the court.
“That trust that we’ve built over time … We communicate really well with each other, because we have been with each other for so long,” Tuzzolo said.
Rogers said she’s proud of how the seniors have grown and have helped the underclassmen develop as players and as people.
“Once you inspire people, they’ll do anything for you if they believe in what you’re doing [and] what you’re saying,” Rogers said. “When people have that trust factor, it’s a big deal.”
Milestones abound for the long-tenured players, most recently for the 6-foot Giommarini. The Rome native tallied her 1,000th career kill against Duquesne on Sept. 29.
Giommarini was named MVP of the A-10 tournament in 2017 after racking up 16 kills and 15 digs in the title game against Dayton, while Tuzzolo earned All-Atlantic 10 tournament honors.
Assists have come in record numbers this season from senior libero Madalon Simpson, who has recorded a career-high 44 assists this season.
Senior middle blocker Jasmin Sneed broke the program’s all-time blocks record earlier this season and has logged 617 career stops.
After two consecutive title game appearances, Rogers knows her players understand what it takes to win at that level and praised them for inspiring their teammates.
“We need to be at a high level each time we go out and play who regardless of who it is,” she said. “They’re fighters. I love this group.”
Both Giommarini and Tuzzolo say their four years on the black and gold roster have meant a lot to them.
“Coming from another country and everything, they really helped me through a lot. They’re like a big piece of me right now,” Giommarini said. “Literally my second family here. Without them, I don’t know what I’d be doing.”
The players are proud of the atmosphere they’ve established and the opportunities they’ve had.
“To be able to grow along with that culture has been so meaningful,” Tuzzolo said. “I never imagined that I’d get to play in the NCAA tournament. [We have] a family that we’ve kind of put together and been able to grow so much together.”