Jul 09, 2020

New coach, new attitude

Sophomore outside hitter Tairyn Rasmussen (left) was one of the few bright spots on the team in 2007. She was named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team, totaling 153 kills last season.
Andrew Riggs / The Collegian

After poor showing in 2007, Bulldogs look to turn it around under first-year coach

There’s a new focus that’s sweeping across the North Gym, and it’s because of Lauren Netherby-Sewell.

The first-year coach has installed a new mindset into the Fresno State volleyball squad, as they seek to improve on a dismal last season and change the landscape of Bulldog volleyball for years to come.

Coming from Hofstra University in New York, Nertherby-Sewell compiled a 43-19 record with the Pride, which included a 26-6 record in the Colonial Athletic Association.

She has installed a competitive atmosphere for the volleyball team, where players are going full speed during 2-on-2 drills and shouting words of encouragement towards each other.

“The main goal is to get better every single day,” Netherby-Sewell said. “They have a goal of giving a 100 percent effort daily.”

Netherby-Sewell has already noticed how quickly the girls have adapted to her.

“It’s been very positive. The team has been terrific. Their learning curve has been quick,” Netherby-Sewell said. “They’re just responding to everything we give them. It’s been a fun thing to have.”

Motivational defeat

The Bulldogs managed just five victories last season, a letdown which inspired them to shoot for loftier goals this season.

“More wins and a better team,” junior Lacey Gera said. “Chemistry is different. We were a little off last year, but this year we are close.”

Gera’s teammate, Tairyn Rasmussen, has also noticed the changing atmosphere inside the North Gym.

“I feel like the girls are giving more energy and effort,” said the returning sophomore and all-conference freshman selection. “With a year like last year, everybody wants to turn around.”

Gera and Rasmussen have already noticed the change in philosophy for their squad.

“We knew we were going to be a different team,” Gera said. “We were a little nervous, but we adapted to her quickly.”

“When you have a coach like Lauren, she expects the best, but at the same time, tells it how it is,” Rasmussen said. “She doesn’t sugarcoat anything and tells us how good we are but where we need to improve.”

Young team inspired by young coach

The two volleyball stars aren’t the only ones getting used to the change of scenery in the North Gym.
Two former Buchanan High standouts have also grasped along in helping to rebuild a program.
Freshman Brianna Clarke turned down offers from Florida State and conference rivals Nevada and New Mexico State to play for the Bulldogs.

“It’s a little more shocking,” Clarke said. “Buchanan is a big campus but this is bigger. Plus this is college.”

Her former high school teammate, and new Bulldog teammate, Baylee Platt, is also adjusting to playing at the college level.

“Yes, it’s way different,” Platt said. “It’s a whole new game.”

The two young Bulldogs have already been asked by their new coach to make an immediate impact.
“It’s a little intimidating as a freshman coming into a program like this, but I’m willing to step up,” Clarke said. “My individual goals this year are to work really hard and learn the new footwork they have here.”

Netherby-Sewell said there’s a significant reason why everyone needs to be a leader on the team this season.

“Not having seniors on the team is probably our biggest challenge,” Netherby-Sewell said. “It’s a struggle for us. Having a team that’s been together for a couple of years for the most part and not having senior leadership.”

Coach’s philosopy to focus on teamwork, not loss

As a junior, Lacey Gera is considered one of the veterans on the team.

“She’s asked me to be more of a leader,” said the 2006 WAC Freshman of the Year.

Rasmussen believes that a team-first mindset will lead to success on the court for the Bulldogs.

“As much as I want to improve myself more, I have to look at the whole team because this is a team sport,” Rasmussen said. “I’m not going to win myself, I’m going to win with five girls behind me.”

The goal for the team is to win, but Nertherby-Sewell is also teaching the team something else.

“I’m teaching them to just enjoy the journey and take one step at a time,” she said. “They have dealt with a lot of adversity together. They just don’t want to lose anymore.”

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