Stony Brook volleyball head coach Coley Pawlikowski started her coaching tenure at Stony Brook spoiled with defensive specialists and offensive beasts.
Her third season will see similar talent on the offensive end, but Pawlikowski faces a huge loss at defense with the graduations of middle blockers Taylor Gillie and Evann Slaughter. One bright spot remains for the Seawolves’ defense: redshirt senior outside hitter Kathy Fletcher. Last season, Fletcher was third on the team in total blocks and total digs.
“Defense is where I struggled the most last season,” she said. “I focused a lot more on defense just so I could be more well-rounded.”
Although defense became her forte last season, that was not always the case in her career. Her defense certainly did improve, with Fletcher, going from 1.91 digs per set to 2.17. She also upped her blocks per set, averaging .68 in 2013 and .74 in 2014. Not only was her defense outstanding, her offensive game shined. She led the team in kills per set last season at 2.98. She was also second on the team in total kills, with 274.
Fletcher, not one to settle, is looking to improve her game this year as well by becoming more consistent in her last season as a Seawolf.
“I think something that I struggled with last year was consistency, bringing the same amount of focus,” she said. “I think that’s a huge part of being able to play your best every game.”
Fletcher worked on refining her game throughout the summer, and looks to have that pay off this season. While improving her consistency is a big step going forward for the Seawolves, Fletcher’s leadership skills will also play a big role. This year, she is one of four seniors on team comprised mostly of sophomores.
“I’ve been playing volleyball for a lot of years. I think I have a lot of knowledge and I have a lot of an on-court presence,” she mentioned when describing her leadership skills.
Those leadership skills are going to come in handy during the tough schedule the Seawolves have coming up. Games against powerhouses such as Loyola Marymount, Long Beach State and Penn State, each of which finished in the top 50 of last year’s RPI, are highlights of their non-conference schedule. The challenges are no worry to Fletcher, however.
“I think it’s going to be awesome [playing against tough teams]. I’m super pumped about our preseason schedule this year. The only way to get better is play competition better than you,” she said. “By playing higher competition than we’re used to seeing in the America East, just bigger schools, is going to make us better.”
Pawlikowski agreed with her.
“We’ve been talking about being a good program and there’s no better way to establish what a good program is than to go and see the best,” Pawlikowski said. “Anybody in the volleyball world has watched [Penn State] the past five or six years just dominate the volleyball world, so being able to go there, see them play, watch them play, play with them, play against them would just be really cool,” she said of the seven-time national champs.
In her final year, Fletcher is looking to leave it all on the court.
“This year, just ending the year with none of those thoughts and knowing that I put it all out there, knowing that I gave everything I had, by doing that we’re going to have a really good chance this year,” she said.