COLUMN: Volleyball ends roller coaster season
It was a season of ups and downs for volleyball.
Central Michigan was on top of the Mid-American Conference West Division for the first four weeks of the season, going 6-2 in MAC play.
Unfortunately, a six-match losing streak followed the hot start, putting the team in risk of missing the MAC Tournament entirely. But three-straight wins gave the Chippewas the No. 6 seed in the MAC Tournament, the same as the previous year when they won the championship.
Unfortunately, CMU dropped the opening match against No. 3 Western Michigan and was sent home packing, and its hopes for a second-straight NCAA Tournament berth were gone.
The Chippewas did end the season on the up, however, spending Thanksgiving at Disney and finishing the season with one of their best performances of the season.
“In my eyes, there is below .500, .500 and then above and, to me, that’s a benchmark,” head coach Erik Olson said. “Being a good team at the end of the season is what we were shooting for … I think that’s what I’m most happy about is that we played some of best ball to end the season.”
CMU finished the season 16-14, finishing above .500 for the sixth time in Olson’s nine seasons as the head coach.
“I feel it was a successful season,” senior outside hitter Lindsey Dulude said. “To be able to end on a high note like this and go 16-14 instead of 15-15 turns an average season into a good season.”
Dulude, along with seniors Val DeWeerd, Samantha Brawley and Jocelyn VerVelde, are now alumna of Chippewas volleyball, and Olson will need to use a freshman class that he feels is full of ‘diamonds in the rough’ to fill the voids.
With the early signing period a few weeks ago, Olson landed three outside hitters and a defensive specialist, all four of which being the positions left by Dulude, DeWeerd, VerVelde and Brawley.
“One of our freshmen will certainly have to fill in Dulude’s role unless (Katie) Schuette is able to return,” Olson said. “But the right-side position is pretty wide open.”
Among the early candidates for the right-side position left by VerVelde, who ended the season and her career playing her best volleyball, is sophomore Hallie Enderle, incoming freshman Taylor Robertson, freshman Kalle Mulford or even junior Danielle Gotham.
“Any one of our middles we’re looking to step up and take that role,” Olson said. “I would really like to see Angie White take that middle position … once she figures things out, she is going to dominate.”
Those are the roles that need to be filled, however, CMU has plenty returning, including all four All-MAC honorees; Kaitlyn McIntyre, Jenna Coates, Kelly Maxwell and White.
The seniors have laid the groundwork for the future of the program, and more winning should be in the forefront.
“I hope for the best for the program, and I hope it can keep growing nationally,” Dulude said. “Hopefully they put themselves on the map even more so than we are now.”