August 30, 2012

Volleyball Opens With High Hopes In Season Opening Tournament

Lynsey Reimer

 

 

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.

Attackers Karley 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 said.

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.