The volleyball team at Iona College is feeling the strongest it has in several years. With a 7-4 record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action, the Gaels are currently ranked fifth overall in the conference and are solidly on track to qualify for the MAAC tournament.

“We’ve clicked better, and it definitely is something I’m proud to be a part of,” said senior outside hitter Kassandra Darnaby, who sees her role as being observant. Although she prefers not to immediately intervene in situations, if senior leadership is called for, she steps in and lets her teammates know “this is what we’re going to do.”

From Selden, N.Y., Darnaby chose Iona for its excellent business school. It’s small enough for the professors to know her personally. The sports were also a definite lure. A basketball fan, Darnaby admires the successful basketball program.

Although the volleyball coach who recruited her is no longer at the college, she’s happy with head coach, Patric Santiago, a fellow Long Islander. She took a leadership position in helping her teammates trust and follow Santiago’s coaching. Last year was a transition time, but now there is mutual trust and team cohesion.

“The pieces are finally coming together,” Darnaby said.

An accounting major, Darnaby plans on pursuing an MBA. Iona has a five-year program—bachelor’s degree/MBA—and she’s applying to do the graduate program next year. She hopes to work in an accounting firm and is currently working on lining up an internship.

Darnaby also played lacrosse growing up, but in high school she had to choose between volleyball and lacrosse because of scheduling. Her mother was a volleyball athlete who played in college, so she opted to continue family tradition. Despite the intense schedule in the fall semester (volleyball is a fall sport), being a student-athlete has helped Darnaby be a better student.

“You have to maintain a certain GPA and you have study hall hours, so you’re forced to stay on top of your schoolwork,” said Darnaby. “I definitely appreciate being a student-athlete. It’s a leg up in college.”

After her collegiate playing days are done, Darnaby will likely step away from volleyball and focus on her career. But that is in the future. At the moment the focus is continuing to win matches and preparing to do well at the conference tournament.