After completing its undefeated season, it’s clear that no Hopkins team has had a better year than the volleyball team. After an incredible regular season, the Blue Jays capped off the year by claiming the program’s first ever national championship in a three-set sweep against the Emory College Eagles.
Junior outside hitter Simone Bliss, who is also a senior staff writer for The News-Letter, has been one of the most important parts of the team all season long. After the regional rounds of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament, Bliss was named the regional MVP and was named a First-Team All-American.
Following the Blue Jays’ final win in the championship match, Bliss was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championships. In that final match, she recorded 21 kills, which constituted half of the entire team’s kills that match, and added an assist and a block as well.
Bliss spoke with The News-Letter to reflect on her accomplishments and the team’s incredible season.
The News-Letter: What did it feel like going into every game knowing your undefeated season was always on the line?
Simone Bliss: We didn’t really think about being undefeated; it just kind of happened. We just took it one game at a time and made sure to prepare appropriately. By the time the wins had really stacked up, it was already post-season, and by then you really can’t lose or it’s all over.
We had to keep winning if we wanted to keep our season alive. I know that’s how everyone feels, but this season was really special with a very special group of people, so I think the drive to keep it going was exceptionally strong.
N-L: How did you and the team achieve consistent success this year and especially in the playoffs?
SB: I think we were just really prepared for every game. We scouted our opponents really well, which allowed us to take away their favorite shots and exploit their weaknesses.
We also worked hard to get stronger in areas where our team was weak. This included practicing alternative defenses that we might be less comfortable with but would be a better match up against other teams.
Overall though, I think our greatest differentiating factors were our team cohesion and versatility. We really get along and support each other on and off the court, and that has allowed each member of the team to rise to the occasion in the face of adversity, whether that meant playing out of position or taking on more responsibility.
N-L: How did it feel to be awarded the NCAA Championship’s Most Outstanding Player?
SB: I appreciate the honor, but just like any individual award, it’s really more exemplary of our team’s play. I can’t score without my teammates creating the opportunity for me through our passes, sets, defense or our other hitters being a threat on offense.
N-L: What did it mean to you to win the the NCAA Championship after such a historic season?
SB: Even though it’s been two weeks, it’s only just starting to sink in. In the moment, the feeling was indescribable.
I’ve never been more focused throughout a game in my life, and the joy that everyone felt when Lulu [Louisa Kishton] scored that last point and everyone rushed the court was tangible. Despite everything we went through this season, all our hard work and determination paid off.
Personally — and I’m sure many of my teammates feel the same — this was the best season of volleyball I’ve ever gotten to be a part of. Winning the Championship is a part of that of course, but the trust and support everyone has had for each other throughout our run is what I’m most grateful for and what I’ll remember most.
N-L: What are your hopes for the team going into next season?
SB: My hope is that we’ll be able to extend the strong relationships we have with each other to the incoming freshmen and that through that we’ll be able to make next season even better than this one.