Berthold returns to protect the net

Right side hitter Emma Berthold and setter Elise Hardesty attempt a block in a game last season. After an injury last season, Berthold has taken a medical redshirt to play this season. Photo by Truman Athletics

Volleyball season is officially underway at Truman State University in spite of the challenges COVID-19 presented getting the season started.

Right side hitter Emma Berthold sat out during her senior year in 2019 due to injury and picked up a medical redshirt to allow her to play one more season.

“Recovery was really tough as I was trying to regain my strength and skill,” Berthold said. “When these two things weren’t happening quickly enough, I took the redshirt.”

Sitting on the sidelines senior year is no easy task, but Berthold acknowledged that the rehab process had to be done in proper timing.

Daily hour-long therapy sessions to rehabilitate Berthold’s shoulder were mandatory, and the senior picked up some exercises along the way.

“My teammates are also starting to do the workouts I did in therapy,” Berthold explained. “Upper body strength is just as important for volleyball as lower body strength is.”

The volleyball team celebrates after scoring last season. This year, the team’s three seniors are looking to lead the team to victory in the GLVC Championship. Photo from TMN Archives

In addition to physical knowledge, Berthold saw her sidelined position as an opportunity to grow.

Berthold described her role as an unofficial coach on the sidelines, where she did her best to encourage the team as well as provide game advice to the players.

“It really flipped my mindset on the concept of a team sport and how important it is for everyone to be engaged in the matches,” Berthold said.

This analytical mind is something Berthold said will make her even better as an on-court player this season.

Berthold is an elite blocker for the Bulldogs and consistently records high numbers of blocks per game. 

“Blocks have always come easy to me when learning the sport,” Berthold said. “I hope to continue to be a dominant blocker this season as well.”

Head Coach Ben Briney is in his 12th season as head coach for the Bulldogs, and the veteran coach acknowledged the difficult choice Berthold had to make regarding her surgery.

A medical redshirt is given to a player who will miss most, if not all, of an NCAA season as a result of injury, such as the case for Berthold.

“Emma made the decision to get season-ending surgery so she could come back stronger with a redshirt,” Briney explained. 

The head coach shifted toward praising Berthold’s sideline coaching, saying that it was like having an extra coach on the sideline to see the floor.

Given the time to develop a stronger analytical mind, Briney said Berthold’s ability to block the hitter will improve even more this season.

“When a hitter gets blocked multiple times, it forces them to play our game,” Briney said. “Emma is a top-ten blocker in the GLVC after one weekend for us.”

The Bulldogs block a ball in a game last season. Berthold is a top-ten blocker in the GLVC. Photo from TMN Archives

Briney concluded by sharing his expectations for the senior opposite hitter, proclaiming that Berthold will be one of the better right side hitters in the GLVC this year.

Left side hitter Sam Yancy has been in the volleyball program with Berthold for Yancy’s entire four-year career.

Yancy has said Berthold is one of her closest teammates and friends overall, beginning with her days before committing to Truman.

“Emma is someone you can always count on to be there for you, on the court and in life,” Yancy said. “When she had to get surgery, the whole team felt the pain collectively.”

Yancy continued by acknowledging that Berthold’s surgery could have been career-ending if the decision wasn’t made in time.

Yancy and Berthold are two senior leaders for this squad, and Yancy said she is more than happy to share that role with Berthold. 

“I love sharing the leader role with Emma because we have such a great dynamic,” Yancy stated. “We have the loudest voices, so we have to be the best communicators.”

Yancy described volleyball as a game of communication, where the most communicative team usually performs better.

It’s not all about talk, however, as Yancy continued to explain that the leader position has multiple responsibilities.

“When Emma is radiating positive energy through good play, the whole team matches that energy,” Yancy said.

Both seniors look to be dynamic leaders for their team this year as they hunt for that elusive GLVC Championship.