After three weeks of scrimmaging mostly against themselves, HU
volleyball coach Audrey Ludwig feels
her team is ready to take on collegiate foes. “We feel prepared,” Ludwig said.
“We’re tired of going against ourselves.”
The Pipers open up the 2012 campaign with a four-pack of
matches in a tournament in Beloit, Wis. this weekend. The Pipers, who went 9-19
in 2011, will face the host school first at 4:30 p.m. on August 31. At 6:30
p.m. that night, they face a Dubuque team they defeated last year on the
latter’s home court. The next morning, the Pipers will battle Marian (10:00
a.m.) before finishing with NAIA foe William Penn (12:30 p.m.).
Even though 11 players return from last year’s team, the
Pipers are still one of the youngest team sin the country. Although the final roster has just two
juniors, nine sophomores and five first-year players on it, the combination of experience and a better
home schedule has the Pipers thinking they can make a serious bid to visit the
postseason for the first time since 2007.
“Last fall, we were just very young and spent a lot of time
learning our systems. This year, we come in as a more experienced team that
worked hard in the off-season and is committed to reaching our goals,” Ludwig
said. “That alone will make a big difference this year.”
Sam Greeney-Hamlin (St.
Cloud), one of two juniors on the team, has emerged as an on-and off-court
leader. At 6-0, she is a major presence on the court. In 2011, she led the
Pipers in kills (257) and blocks (44). But it’s her off the court work that has
really caught Ludwig’s eye. “Sam has become a player who is respected by
everybody,” Ludwig said. “She sets very high expectations for herself and her
teammates and is a selfless leader who expects nothing but the best.”
Greeney-Hamlin was one of just two players to see action in
all 98 games last year. The other was Frankie
Miller (Grand Island, Neb.). Miller and her twin sister Sammie (who only sat out one game)
joined Greeney-Hamlin as the major contributors of the Pipers’ offensive punch.
Sammie served as the team’s main setter (754 assists) while Frankie, who has
grown a couple of inches from 2011, ranked second among the returnees with 165
kills. 6-2 Mackenzie Remick (Prior
Lake, Minn.) became a force to be reckoned with in the second half of last year
and is expected to play an expanded role in 2012.
“Frankie and Sammie made great strides last year,” Ludwig
said. “Mackenzie got better and better as the season went on. I expect all of
three to be major contributors this season.
It is a big adjustment coming from high school to first year college.
With no juniors and seniors on last year’s team, it may have taken them a
little longer than usual to get used to the speed of the game.”
Another returnee who may see a lot of court time is Lacy Koss (Dodge Center, Minn.), a 5-5
defensive specialist who led the team in digs, averaging nearly three a game.
Kilian (St. Michael, Minn.), Stephanie
Kaup (Chandler, Ariz.) and Lynsey Reimer (Peosta, Iowa - pictured at right) round out the list of sophomores who saw
considerable court action in 2011.
But being a returnee isn’t necessarily going to guarantee
playing time this fall. The talented incoming class has wasted no time making
inroads into the regular eight-player rotation. Jamie Rubbelke (North St. Paul, Minn.), daughter of HU softball
coach Jim and Katie Ayres (Thompson
Valley, Ariz.), a versatile player, are expected to see playing action in Beloit.
Waiting in the wings is Michelle Mattke (Owatonna,
Minn.), who comes to the Pipers off a state tournament team; Danielle Murray (Monticello, Minn.) offers
size in the middle at 5-11 and setter Vassi
Prattas (Miami, Fla.). RS/MB Caitlyn Gottwald (Paynesville, Minn.)
is a transfer from Minn-Morris.
Opening with four matches in less than 24 hours is no easy
task. Hence, Ludwig put her charges through a tough training camp to ready them
for the weekend grind. “These tournaments can become an endurance test,” she
And what Ludwig is looking for this weekend? “I want to us
to be better at serve receiving and quality digging,” she said. “We spent a lot
of time working on defense. If you play good defense, the offense will follow.”
The Pipers will be at Hutton Arena next weekend (September
7-8) for their own tournament. Hamline will face Presentation, Wis-Stout, Crown
and Buena Vista. The MIAC opener is September 12 at Hutton against Concordia.