NORFOLK, Va. - After months of "Waiting, a lot of waiting and a lot of anticipation," according to Old Dominion outside hitter and Kellam High School product Ashley Peroe, the ODU volleyball team finally begins its inaugural volleyball season.
This season was bumped from the fall semester and set to a later date because of 2020's spike in the coronavirus pandemic. Now, nearly two years after head coach Fred Chao was hired and tasked with putting together the first volleyball team in program history, the Monarchs serve up their first match when they host George Mason Friday afternoon.
"This has been building for so long, at some point you become a little bit numb to the electricity," Chao said. "Some of the things start to get set up in the gym, we're working on a little bit more of actual match protocols and things like that. It becomes a little more real.
"That’s when you can take a moment and be like, 'This is really cool.'"
The team's been training since 2019, building the foundation of this new program, which is a challenge that became one of the selling points for the athletes.
"Something that really drew me to the school, other than the coaches, was the fact that we were able to create a brand new team," Peroe said. "Starting a new culture and starting a program is like a once in a lifetime opportunity."
"I came here without really knowing what was gonna happen. I was like, starting a new program that sounds amazing," ODU middle hitter Valentina Culaciati said. "Then we starting getting the [brand new] gym, the locker room and everything is, I love it."
When the Conference USA newcomers take the court on Friday, they embrace their program's inexperience as their ace in the hole.
"We’re gonna go out and play and nobody’s gonna have any idea how we play, our style of play, the intensity we play," Peroe said. "I’m excited to just come out and surprise people, shock people and get it done.”
They'll get it done in the newly renovated ODU Volleyball Center at 2 p.m. Friday.