WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Senior and sophomore setters work together to lead Ball State team
The Daily News
Now a senior setter for the Ball State women’s volleyball team, Seidel ran away with the starting setting position last season. She racked up more than 1,000 assists, while no one else eclipsed 100.
Yet one year later, Seidel suddenly doesn’t have the stranglehold on the starting position she had just months ago. After essentially owning the spot, she now shares it with sophomore Jenna Spadafora, a rising star for Ball State.
And she’s completely fine with that.
“It’s different — I’m not going to lie — it’s really different,” Seidel said. “But it’s great because in the end, it’s making both of us better.”
Seidel is no stranger to the situation because she went through a slightly similar process when she was a sophomore. Sitting behind Brittany McGinnis, one of the top setters in Ball State history, Seidel competed in most of the matches during the season before tearing her ACL.
Until the injury, Seidel was slowly earning more and more playing time, comparable to what Spadafora is doing now.
It would be natural for a rivalry to form. With two starting quality setters on the same team, basic instinct would be for incumbent to protect her position at all costs, while Spadafora waits her turn.
But that’s not how it’ll work for Ball State head coach Steve Shondell. Building a team and winning a Mid-American Conference Championship means contributions from all players, not just his senior setter.
“They’ve both been extremely unselfish this year,” he said. “They realize they’re both going to get opportunities to set and whatever I’ve asked them to do, they do it with a smile on their faces.”
Seidel said she understands that in order for the team to be at its best, it’ll require both setters contributing at different times.
She knows firsthand because Shondell hasn’t been afraid to flip the switch and pull one of them at a moment’s notice if he deems it necessary.
Against IPFW, Ball State won the first set before dropping the next two. With the match on the line, Shondell pulled Seidel from the game and inserted Spadafora as the setter.
The change sparked Ball State’s offense, and the team rallied to win the last two sets and take the match.
“We weren’t getting enough offense with Jacqui [Seidel], so I pulled her,” Shondell said. “It’s great having two setters who can give me offense or defense depending on what I need.”
Seidel is more defense oriented, while Spadafora brings a stronger offensive attack. Spadafora was temporarily switched to outside hitter last season after numerous players suffered injuries.
The combination allows for a balanced attack and can wreak havoc on opposing teams.
If Ball State is struggling offensively, Spadafora may be inserted. If the team is giving up numerous points, Seidel may be the answer.
The constant switching keeps defenses unprepared. Because both players bring different strengths to the court, the two setters mesh together instead of being hostile or jealous.
Instead, the two have set aside any differences they have, both pushing each other to improve during practices and in games. While this position can typically be undesirable, Shondell has turned it around to benefit the team.
There’s a clear reason Shondell has decided to split playing time between the two women, as the strategy has helped lead the team to victory.
“We’re always competing and it helps both of us as players,” Spadafora said. “It’s good to know that whoever is out there will be able to get the job done.”
To this point, they have. The duo has combined for more than 600 assists — Seidel with 421 and Spadafora with 202. It’s led the team to a 12-3 record.
It can be hectic for Seidel and Spadafora, however, because it’s difficult to determine who will be the starting setter. Shondell doesn’t plan in advance which player will play when; it’s dictated by the tone of the match.
“It’s hard because usually, setters aren’t in this position that we are,” Seidel said. “But we both know that we both have a role on this team, and it’s our job to accept that role.”
And there’s no way to tell who will be on the floor until the next set starts.