The women’s volleyball team at Fairleigh Dickinson University entered this season with an upbeat attitude. With new head coach David Nguyen at the helm and nine new players, there was a sense of excitement. While Nguyen, who was hired in January, hoped to lead the team on an upward trajectory, he had no idea things would reach historic heights in one season. This past weekend, FDU won its first-ever Northeast Conference Championship and with it the program’s first trip to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament.

“My goal was to implement a culture that is welcoming, essentially a strong culture that the players are more involved in,” said Nguyen. “We would host our culture meeting once a week. It would be like 30 minutes. Sometimes we’d talk about culture, sometimes we were just playing a card game together or something like that. That has really helped us.”

The returning players and the newcomers came together and bought into Nguyen’s vision for the program. He saw the level of play ramping up before conference play started. The mid-September match against Lehigh, which FDU won 3–2, was a clear indication of the team’s potential. 

“A couple of our starters had to take a seat,” Nguyen said. “They weren’t feeling well. Lehigh was a good team, and we came in with a bunch of our freshmen and we took it to them. It was intense. We had a lot of players contribute that game. At that point things started to click for us. The team started believing that we have depth. Maybe we don’t have better talent than the best team in our conference, but we know we have the depth and we rally together.”

Team bonding continued, both with the coaching staff and independently, building chemistry and confidence. In the conference tournament, FDU defeated the top two seeds—St. Francis University (Pa.) and Sacred Heart University—en route to victory. 

“We have players with a lot of experience and a couple of freshmen who don’t know they shouldn’t be beating the top seed,” Nguyen said. “They just went out there and they played. They all won a lot when they were younger [at club volleyball or in high school]. They know what it feels like to have a championship. We just wanted it for each other.”

The Knights will learn their first-round tournament opponent on Sunday.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *