Volleyball must rely on young talent to fill holes for 2015
The Central Michigan University volleyball team adds seven new players this year, including six freshmen, as it attempts to capture their first Mid-American Conference Championship since 2011.
Head Coach Erik Olson has lofty expectations for this year’s group, which did not qualify for the MAC Tournament in 2014 after posting a 10-18 record (5-11 in the MAC).
“We’re going to get better every day,” Olson said. “We want to be great. The expectations are high. I think that we have a lot of talent in every position. I’m excited, but the key for us is to stay as healthy as we can.”
Two notable losses for CMU include outside hitter Kaitlyn McIntyre and defensive specialist Kristen Reenders. McIntyre, a three-time first team all-MAC player, graduated while Reenders, a senior, is no longer part of the program for undisclosed reasons.
The team also loses defensive specialist Nicole Czehowski, who appeared in every match for the Chippewas in 2014. She was set to be a senior leader on the team, but is also no longer part of the team for undisclosed reasons.
CMU will replace McIntyre with a flurry of players. Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Bueter is the top offensive player returning, tallying 306 kills while also playing every set for CMU in 2014. Bueter will be aided by sophomores Taylor Robertson and Jessica Meichtry and freshman Laura Wilson.
Defensively, the Chippewas will replace Reenders with a group anchored by freshman Jamison Wolffis. Wolffis started as the libero for the Maroon team in the team’s annual Maroon and Gold scrimmage and recorded eight digs. Sophomore Courtney Hiltibran will also get playing time as well as the veteran senior Haley Barker. Freshman Emily Wenglikowski adds to the depth.
The team has a veteran presence in the middle, with senior middle blockers Angie White and Kalle Mulford. White started 27 of 28 matches last season while leading the Chippewas with 117 blocks.
“I have definitely blossomed as a leader throughout the four years of my career here but that just comes from the support of my team,” White said.
The most inexperienced unit of the Chippewas this season is the setters. Danielle Thompson graduated and would-be sophomore Kylie Copple transferred to Portland State.
CMU will counteract their losses with the arrival of Kathia “Nicole” Sanchez. A native of Puerto Rico, the junior spent last season at Iowa Western Community College and earned All-America honors in her two seasons.
Sanchez feels no pressure to replace Thompson and Copple and “wants to get better every day and learn the system.”
“I just want to play and win games,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez will be helped by freshmen Marissa Grant and Kelli Combs. Grant posted 15 assists for the Maroon in the annual scrimmage, while Combs notched 16 assists for the Gold.
The Chippewas will begin their season with invites at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Cleveland State and Fresno State before hosting the Chippewa Challenge Sept. 18-19. They open up MAC play at Northern Illinois Sept. 25.
Throughout training camp, Olson has seen his team grow and get better each day.
“I saw one day in the preseason where they did not grow,” Olson said. “Otherwise, we grew exponentially and my overall thoughts on this team are that although we are young, we don’t play young.”
Olson said one the goals for this season is “to be great” and that their growth as a team in training camp raises optimism for the upcoming season.
“This team is going to surprise some people,” Olson said.
The Chippewas begin the season against IPFW at 7 p.m., Thursday Aug. 28 against IPFW in Fort Wayne, Ind.