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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

By Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher

Torbett aims to change volleyball's 'habit'

By Bethany Bradsher
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Julie Torbett has been sitting right behind the bench to witness each of the five national titles won by her alma mater. As a former Penn State player, she was immersed in each championship victory and embraced a volleyball dynasty that she helped forge.

It’s that unyielding drive that Torbett brings to an East Carolina volleyball program desperately in need of a confidence infusion. With just six total wins over the last three seasons, the Pirates are welcoming Torbett and her commitment to the reinvention of the ECU volleyball program.

“I’m well aware of the record,” said Torbett, who was named the new head coach on Feb. 5. “They didn’t hide that from me. They brought me in so that I would make some changes, and we’re going to make some changes that you’re going to see in how we do things on the court, how we conduct ourselves.”

Torbett holds firmly to the Vince Lombardi maxim that “Winning is a habit.”

Unfortunately, she said, losing can also be habit-forming, and she means to institute a three-pronged emphasis of work ethic, competitive drive and loyalty that will create the kind of climate hospitable to victory. She doesn’t pretend that turning the tide will be easy, she said, but she knows it can be done.

“If they’ll do those things we’re going to win more than two matches,” she said. “I think we’ve got to get into a habit of winning. And that’s not going to be easy. I’m not a magician. I’m not going to wave a magic wand and all of a sudden, we’re good. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”

As the head coach at UNC-Asheville for 17 years — she was named to that position when she was only 24 — and two seasons at Winthrop, Torbett became the winningest coach in Big South history with two Big South Coach of the Year selections and three regular season conference titles.

At East Carolina, she has the chance to be an architect, a role she embraces.

The team has only had a few practices together so far, and Torbett is still in the early stages of assessing the team’s strengths and weaknesses. But she has so emphasized those three chief values — work ethic, competitiveness and loyalty — that the Pirate players have already teased her that they plan to get them tattooed on their bodies.

For players like Nicole Willis, a junior right side hitter from Raleigh who looks to be one of the offensive sparks of the team, the key to thriving during the transition is laying aside pre-existing ideas about how to do things and letting their new coach take the reins.

“I know a lot of us have been given a lot of different ways to do things with regards to techniques and how to play the game,” said Willis, who transferred to ECU last year from LSU. “But for her to implement her new program, we have to buy in 100 percent, and if we don’t we’re going to suffer the consequences for it.

"I think we’re all so eager just to learn something new and something positive it’ll go off without a hitch.”

With the deep loyalty and school spirit of Penn State in her background, Torbett has been encouraged at the enthusiasm of the Pirate Nation, particularly when she learned that every one of the returning players who came in under previous coach Pati Rolf intended to stay at ECU.

“None of them bailed,” she said. “When you have players that love to be here and really enjoy their university, my job is to train them to know how to play volleyball and to bring in even better players in the future that will make this a stronger program.”

Outside hitter Hannah Allgood, one of seven seniors on the squad, said that Coach Torbett has emphasized her own principles but has also taken the time to listen to her players and understand their backgrounds and their dreams for the team. With just one year left to wear a Pirate jersey, Allgood and her fellow seniors welcome a fresh start.

“We want to be able to go out and say we gave it our all, and even though it’s our last year we’re going to work hard so that the classes below us can also carry out a winning tradition,” Allgood said.

Torbett will have a more accurate picture of her team and its potential after playing a slate of spring scrimmages that include matches against N.C. State, Duke, Elon and Winthrop. And as she continues to collect advice from her former head coach Russ Rose and his dominant Penn State program, she will pour all that she can into the Pirates who hope to follow her into a brighter future.

“I’m a fighter,” she said. “I just absolutely do not ever think that I’m going to go into a match and lose. So they will garner some of that strength from me, and that winning attitude from me. I’m hoping that will give them some confidence, that there’s going to be a change and they’re going to win matches next year.”

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02/26/2013 06:46 PM

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