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Well, maybe two steps.
"I have high expectations for our program, and getting to the NCAA tournament alone is not one of my goals," said Schreiber, the 2007 NAC Coach of the Year. "We've been there and done that, we've talked about that as a program. We've been in the NCAA tournament (in the past), but we have yet to get past the first round."
Last season, because the NAC was in just its second year of existence, the winner of the conference tournament title did not receive an automatic bid to the playoffs. So despite a 23-14 season in which the Muskies ran the table in the NAC's regular season (12-0) to go with the conference tournament title, Lakeland did not receive an at-large spot in the national tournament.
This season, Schreiber hopes the Muskies don't simply "settle" for an automatic bid.
"Last year, it was fun motivating them to know that the automatic bid wasn't there, that they had to start playing tournament volleyball at every tournament we went to," Schreiber said. "So hopefully they realize that this year, if they attack this year the way they attacked last year, we may not need an automatic bid to get in. I'd like them not to rely on the automatic bid, but rather have a spot secured before the conference tournament even begins."
As he does every season, Schreiber has crafted a particularly challenging non-conference schedule to give his team a chance to see some of the nation's best teams and to prepare them for the grind of the NAC regular season. Included in the campaign is a late-season trip to
"We intentionally scheduled tough again like we have in the past to see teams at the top of their region," Schreiber said. "Our goals have for years gone beyond conference goals. We've always had goals to be successful within our conference, but also outside of our conference and in the NCAA tournament."
The conference slate is highlighted by an early season match-up with
The Muskies are led by junior outside hitter Brittanie Paulus, the reigning NAC Most Valuable Player. Paulus, a native, was ninth in the conference with 343 kills and second on the squad with 426 digs last season. She received honorable mention All-Midwest region by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. A three-sport athlete in high school, Paulus combines her fantastic athletic ability with a burning competitive drive to be a dominating force on the court.
"She's gotten better again from all appearances, that despite being the MVP of the conference last year," Schreiber said. "She could be playing horseshoes or checkers, and she would have the same tenacity to win."
Along with Paulus, seniors Jessica Sparling (
"They've been through the process a year already, and we had a number of challenges that they had to address last year that I think they did a remarkable job at," Schreiber said. "I'd be surprised if leadership were, at any point, a concern for us."
In 2007, Sparling, the team's starting setter, finished third in the NAC with 1,033 assists. She garnered first-team All-NAC accolades for the second consecutive season.
"Jess Sparling was recognized for being the best setter in the conference," Schreiber said following the season. "Not many setters have the ability to be an attacker and a blocker in addition to setting the way she does. Her multi-skill package put her on the all-conference team."
Playing the right side position, Kramer was in the main rotation last season and looks to increase her role this season playing alongside Sparling.
"She wants an increased role on the team, and we're ready to give that to her," Schreiber said. "Offensively she's always been there for us. She's going to get a shot to play defensively for us as well this year, instead of being subbed out like she has in the past."
Junior Tonia Strebelinski (
"I think Tonia Strebelinski as our libero was probably the most underrated player in the conference last year," Schreiber said. "Our team realizes how valuable Tonia is to what we do and we rely on her for quite a bit, even though she might not get recognized in print for it."
Three other juniors project for starting spots in Schreiber's line-up. At middle hitter, Kimberly Linger (Eldorado), who registered 223 kills in 2007, returns for her second year as a starter, while Jessica Keller (Oostburg) takes over the spot vacated by Shelly Bruni, an All-NAC second team selection last season. Schreiber feels that Keller, who split time at the position last season, is "more than ready" to be a starter this season.
Junior Kaylyn Kasper (Hilbert) looks to replace first-team all-conference outside hitter Ashley Domask. Kasper saw action in 26 matches a year ago at the position. She will receive competition for the spot from sophomore Andrea Mueller, a native of
Three others will figure into Schreiber's rotation. Sophomore Kristine Raeder (
In addition, Allison Davis (
Schreiber also believes freshman Amanda Laganowski, a converted defensive specialist from Oostburg, will be a force in the near future at outside hitter.
"We think Amanda Laganowski's future is really bright, it's just a matter of how fast she learns to transfer to a different role than what she was asked to play in high school," Schreiber said. "As soon as she learns offense, I think she's going to be an all-conference type player down the road."
With a strong combination of veteran leadership, core talent in the middle classes and a freshman class with loads of potential, the Muskies appear to be set for a run at the NAC title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
"While we have two significant seniors, the bulk of our talent is still in our sophomore and junior class as well," Schreiber said. "We have youthful exuberance and veteran leadership combined together. I feel like we've got the great mix of a team to do what we need to do again."
This season, the NCAA has implemented a rule change, reducing the number of points required to win a set from 30 to 25. According to the NCAA, the rationale behind the decision is to "increase fan and player focus and fan excitement" by making each point more meaningful to win the set.
Schreiber is indifferent to the rule change, but noted it could bring an advantage to teams attempting to upset superior opponents, and may aid the Muskies in knocking off a team over the course of the rugged non-conference stretch or even in the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm hoping it plays in our favor, because we played teams strong last year and just didn't outlast them," Schreiber said. "We play a pretty tough schedule every year, but it just seems like we faded at the end of matches last year … so the 25 points might actually favor us in those matches."
With the reduction in points required to win a set, the NCAA has also reduced the number of substitutions allowed per set to 12, down from 15 in 2007.