Volleyball begins season with annual Maroon and Gold Scrimmage against alumni
It was an unfamiliar setting for the Central Michigan University volleyball team on Saturday.
Two players from the 2014 season competed on the other side of the net. Seven new players were on the floor for the Chippewas and the crowd at McGuirk Arena was comprised of mostly family members.
Nonetheless, the Chippewas were reacquainted with competitive volleyball in the annual Maroon and Gold scrimmage. The Maroon swept the Gold (25-19, 25-13, 25-17) to officially kick off the season for the team.
The Maroon team consisted of the majority of the 2015 team and the Gold featured six alumni, as well as freshman setter Kelli Combs and freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Lexi Duello.
Head coach Erik Olson was pleased with his team’s effort in its first scrimmage, but also stated there were some things to work on.
“I think that we started a little slow in set one,” Olson said. “I liked how our setup game was. Our (attacking percentage of 61%) was ok. I think our transition game was a little sluggish there. I think there were some nerves. I think the court, in general, was a little quiet.”
The Chippewas were led offensively by senior middle blockers Angie White and Kalle Mulford, with five kills each.
“I think our middles flourished,” Olson said. “Our right sides did a great job. I think Jamie (Wolffis) had a good first outing as the libero (defensive specialist). I think our setters did a great job distributing the ball.”
Wolffis, a freshman from East Grand Rapids, started as the libero for the Maroon and led the team with eight digs. Wolffis enjoyed playing in her first match at McGuirk Arena and showcasing her skills in front of the Chippewa faithful.
“We really brought to the floor what we’ve been learning the past two weeks,” Wolffis said. “Our goal is to play as fast as we’ve been playing so far together.”
The entire team received some form of playing time in the match, including the six freshmen.
“A big win tonight was how many of the newcomers we got into the match and they flourished.” Olson said. “We didn’t have any tight moments. We went out there and played some good ball and did some great things.”
The event kicked off with player introductions that lasted about 20 minutes. Each player on the current team said their position, hometown and major. Among the highlights were sophomore Jessica Meichtry impersonating Olson celebrating, freshman defensive specialist Emily Wenglikowski being a third generation Chippewa, and junior setter Kathia Sanchez majoring in Spanish.
Sanchez, a native of Puerto Rico and transfer from Iowa Western Community College, feels the difference of community college to NCAA Division 1 play.
It was a totally different atmosphere,” Sanchez said. “I really loved the energy we had today. The team chemistry (here) is different. We all get along. The level (of competition) at a Division I, four-year university is different.”
Sanchez played only one set and tallied four assists. Freshman setter Marissa Grant played two sets and led the Maroon with 15 assists.
Olson had high praise for Sanchez, who said the setter switch had more to do with getting Grant experience.
She’s still learning our system a little bit but she’s really good at just playing the game,” Olson said. “Nicole is the real deal. She’s going to be a great player for us.”
The alumni featured four players from the 2011 Mid-American Conference championship team: Lindsey Grillo (Dulude), Val Hughes (DeWeerd), Jenna Wilson (Coates), and Kelsey Detwiler. The team also two members from last year’s squad: Kaitlyn McIntyre and Halle Enderle.
Enderle now coaches volleyball at Beal City High School and McIntyre is continuing her education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Despite the layoff, Olson thought the two, and the entire Gold team, played well.
“Our alumni were playing really well,” Olson said. “They are good volleyball players. I feel like both teams got put to the challenge.”
White said it was strange to compete against McIntyre and Enderle.
“It was definitely a different experience since I’m so used to them being on our side,” White said. “It was a fun experience to just shut them down.”
Senior defensive specialist Haley Barker loved the energy the Maroon squad played with. A loud and energetic player, she was happy to see her teammates also play with passion.
“We didn’t have (a lot of energy) at the beginning but we definitely picked it up towards the end which is why our results and statistics really show that,” Barker said.
“It’s a good correlation. We have a lot of energy, we play really great.”
Olson said one of his goals is for his team to play with a competitive, but fun, approach. He hopes to work on that in practice this upcoming week.
“I still think we haven’t reached (having fun), in regards to how we celebrate points, and I simply believe that’s just a first outing situation,” he said.
CMU kicks off their season against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne at 7 p.m., Thursday Aug. 28 at the IPFW Invitational.