Celentano feels she can build a winner at UMO


Emma Celentano recognizes that the University of Mount Olive women’s volleyball program has the tools that it needs to succeed on a consistent basis.

The recent lack of prosperity, says the newly-minted head coach, belongs in the past.

It’s time to move forward.

“Looking at the other 21 sports that Mount Olive offers and [you see] they’re winning, so I think that maybe it’s a turnover in leadership and not having that consistency in that head coaching role that might make all the difference in this program,” Celentano said. “I’m very excited about the challenge. I watched a ton of video. We’re already competing with the schools at the top [in the league], so it’s just tweaking a few things here there, making the girls realize they have the tools they need to win and just executing.

“That’s what we’re looking to change from the spring to the fall.”

UMO compiled an 8-16 worksheet last season and finished 4-12 against Conference Carolinas opposition. The Trojans emerged victorious in five of their final nine matches.

Celentano has used spring workouts to simplify the game and diagnose issues the players experienced in close matches last season. While watching video, she noticed the absence of confidence whether it was on defense or transitioning to offense.

The Trojans were 6-7 in contests decided in either four or five sets.

“My job for them is to get them into a mental space where they know they can do it, not just believe it, but know it and [hopefully] by the fall we are doing it,” Celentano said. “Volleyball is a sport that moves pretty fast. [I want] to make it really easy for us to execute a very simple goal, which is to get the ball on the other side of the court inbounds before they do it to us.

“That’s what we’re looking to do.”

Though the 2020 schedule hasn’t been released, Celentano expects to play quality, talented, tough opponents who will present different tests for her team. She anticipates getting out-matched on occasion, which will make it difficult for UMO to frequently sideout and limit its ability to score.

Communication on the court and the opportunity to apply what is learned in practice will prove pivotal.

“We want to recognize those things and learn how we can manipulate the things that the other team does well, make it hard for them to do those things well, then flip it to take advantage of the things they’re not as good at [doing],” Celentano said. “I don’t think they’ve been taught the game in those type of terms. I want to see six-plus players who are having fun out there because the more we tend to tighten, worry about the fans, worry about mom and dad in the stands, the less we’re probably focusing on our job.”

The Trojans’ last winning season occurred in 2011.

UMO hasn’t claimed a league crown since 2007.

“I don’t even recognize winning seasons as it relates to this program, so I’m not even sure if the girls do,” said Celentano, who is the ninth head coach in UMO history since 2002.

“Part of me wants them to kind of recognize that this program has everything it needs to return to a winning program. I’ve told the girls you’re the future. You do have the tools to win.”


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