CORNING - After 30 years and 350+ wins, long-time Corning volleyball coach Irene Furness retired at the end of last season. Enter new head coach Amber Freelove.
Freelove was a graduate of Corning East High School and played college volleyball at Buffalo State University before an ACL injury ended her playing career.
Since her playing days, she’s kept involved with the sport she loved by coaching at Crystal City Volleyball Club for the past six seasons. Freelove now serves as the director for the volleyball club.
Freelove’s involvement with the club has given her familiarity with her players she now coaches at the varsity level.
“It makes the transition a lot easier for a lot of these girls,” senior and STAC West all-star in 2018 Sadie Sharkey said. “She’s right here in the hometown working with them before she even came into the gym, so they know who she is and they know they can talk to her. It’s more of a personal connection.”
In addition to familiarity with her players, Freelove has been able to coach alongside Furness while molding her own coaching views and styles in the process to bring to her first season as Hawks head coach.
“[Furness] has always been that kind of mentor for me,” said Freelove. “They’re big shoes to fill, but the girls understand that it’s a new program, so they’re making adjustments and I’m making adjustments.”
Freelove admitted that if she ever has a question, she won’t be hesitant to reach out to Furness, who coached against Freelove when Furness coached at Corning West and Freelove played at Corning East.
Freelove takes over a team that went 12-1 last season and is looking for its fourth-straight STAC West crown. With only three returning seniors Freelove will be able to mold the youth this season and instill her ways of coaching for years to come.
“This year for them is going to be quite of a building year,” Freelove said. “I think they’re still going to be successful though, because they are all really talented.”
Along with coaching, the seniors on the team plan to teach the underclassmen the ropes and how to attack the varsity level.
“A lot of these girls are young and they need people to push them and make them better and I think [the seniors] are going to be huge for them, to push them,” said Sharkey. “We’re pushing them really hard right now, and they’re doing great.”
Following a crushing 3-2 defeat to Binghamton a season ago in the sectional finals, Corning will need to work on coming together as a team with all of the new faces within the program if they want to reach that point again.
“[We need] Consistent training, discipline and the determination that they want to win,” said Freelove. “They want to be successful, so that will be huge. Sometimes there’s a lot of talented players, but hard work is going to take them where they want to go.”
Corning will participate in the Penfield Tournament today and kick off league play Tuesday September 3 at home against Maine-Endwell.