Wrapped shoulders, taped ankles and braces on knees populate bodies of the volleyball players out on the court.
Although the players can tape their fingers themselves, there are other injuries they can’t take care of on their own.
For that, they need the athletic trainers.
“They do a lot of things themselves, but they can’t tape their ankles, so I feel like that’s my part in it,” sophomore Julianna Zilli said.
Zilli, along with junior Steve Hartnett are this year’s undergraduate student athletic trainers for the men’s volleyball team.
Neither of them knew much about volleyball coming in. Hartnett listed volleyball as a choice for a team he wanted to work with because he said he wanted a sport in season, and Zilli was assigned to the team.
Now, they spend almost every day with the team.
Typically, they come in about an hour before the 3 p.m. practices and help with pre-practice treatments. This includes evaluations, tapings, wrappings, preparing the Gatorade and occasionally moral support.
Once practice starts, they head out into the gym with the team where they dribble volleyballs not being used and assist when needed.
During home games, they are down on the sidelines with the team.
Although they didn’t come in with much experience with the sport, they both have found a new appreciation for it.
“I wasn’t sure about how much I’d like it, but it’s up-tempo, exciting to watch, and it requires a lot of athletic ability,” Hartnett said.
Throughout their time with the team, not only have Hartnett and Zilli come to enjoy the sport, but they also have become a part of the team according to coach Mark Pavlik and redshirt junior outside hitter Spencer Sauter.
“They mesh with the team well,” Sauter said. “There is a mutual respect shared.”
Pavlik said he’s never had a problem with one of the athletic training students.
“The students we get are dedicated. They know what they want to be, they’re in the gym with us, they treat the guys well, and the guys love them being around the team,” Pavlik said. “When you get someone passionate who’s in athletic training and really wants to do the right things for the student-athletes and the athletes they’re going to be training for in their professional life, it’s just fun to watch them develop.”
Zilli mentioned she felt tentative at first, but now she feels the “mesh” with the team that Sauter mentioned.
“They say hi and high five me on the bench,” Zilli said. “Every time I go to get water, [redshirt freshman libero Royce Clemens] says thank you like four times in 30 seconds. Every time.”
And at practice, Zilli said redshirt sophomore Jalen Penrose has a game where he asks her to throw the ball to him and then accidentally misses it. So now she doesn’t throw it to him anymore.
Out of all the players on the team, Sauter is one of the players that’s had a lot of interaction with the trainers off the court.
“I have had to spend a little more time in the training room than I would like due to four sprained ankles, but they have helped me get back on the court and get stronger in the process,” Sauter said.
Hartnett said his favorite moments of the season are when he sees one of the players he and Zilli worked with recover and do well in a game. Sauter is one he remembers specifically.
Now that the end of the season is approaching, the athletic trainers’ roles are becoming even more essential.
“I listen to them a lot, like ‘Hey, how do the guys feel?’ ” Pavlik said. “Do we need to back off on certain people, do we give them a day, whatever. I will listen to them a lot at this time of year.”
However, the end of the season signals that it’s almost time for the undergraduates to move on. Both said they will miss the team, and between the two of them, the general consensus seems to be the team is full of “really good guys” who are the same off the court as they are on it.
Hartnett said he would definitely recommend working with the men’s volleyball team to a younger athletic training student.
“Just in general, [I’ll miss] being with them every single day, seeing their interactions,” Zilli said. “I’m going to miss all the hard work.”