2009 Women's Volleyball Season Preview: Schreiber, experienced Muskies set sights on conference three-peat
Athletics - posted on 8/31/2009
It's business as usual as the 2009 season approaches for the two-time defending Northern Athletics Conference champion Lakeland women's volleyball team.
The expectations - to win the NAC regular season and tournament titles - haven't changed. The only change that occurred in 2008 was the addition of the automatic NCAA Division III Tournament berth for the winner of the conference tournament, which Lakeland claimed after an emotional 25-20, 18-25, 28-26, 25-17 victory over Concordia, Wis., in the tournament championship game.
Five days later, the Muskies were defeated in three sets by regional host and No. 1 seed UW-Oshkosh in the first round of the national tournament. Lakeland completed a 25-11 season, highlighted by another perfect run (12-0) in league regular season play.
Head coach Chad Schreiber believes the 2009 team, which features six seniors and is picked by NAC coaches to win its third consecutive league crown, can use that experience to make a deeper run in postseason play.
"I think now, with this group, we have some tournament experience to draw on," Schreiber said. "[Prior to postseason play], this group didn't have a lot of NCAA Tournament experience to draw on. After getting there last year, they now have something to draw on and a frame of reference."
Lakeland has been emphasizing serving since camp opened on Aug. 22, and Schreiber, who is entering his 15th year at Lakeland, has also implemented a new blocking system in hopes of collapsing opponents' attacks at the net.
"We struggled with our service game last year, and the new blocking system was a result of something I think we can do better with a different system," Schreiber said. "We've also been getting new people who weren't in the line-up on a regular basis last year regular repetitions."
Schreiber believes the team's main strength will be its experience, pointing out that all six players on the floor at any given time have logged plenty of court experience.
"We've got four players that have seen a lot of match time, and another three that have seen considerable match time," Schreiber said. "All seven people we put in the line-up will have seen considerable playing time. There will be no one new in the line-up that hasn't seen considerable court time in the past two years."
Senior outside hitter Brittanie Paulus has been a mainstay in the Lakeland line-up for the past four years. In 2008, Paulus led the team in kills (337), digs (444) and service aces (28), earning first team All-NAC recognition for the second straight season. The Belgium, Wis., native was also named to the Division III All-Midwest Region team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
As one of the team's fiercest competitors and best athletes, Paulus will see an increased role in all facets of the Lakeland attack, and will serve as one of the team's captains along with senior Heather Mayer (Greenfield, Wis.) and junior Sam Shepeck (Gladstone, Mich.).
"Brittanie's high level of play and determination to build our program have been apparent since she started here," Schreiber said. "She's going to have to pick up ball control and carry more offensive load than she was asked to carry last year. She plays great defense, which has always been her thing, and she finds a way to get a shot out of every set. But now she needs to find a way to get a kill out of every set, and she needs to solidify her serve receive."
Senior middle hitter Kim Linger (Eldorado, Wis.) also returns after garnering first team all-conference accolades last year. Linger recorded a team-high 85 blocks and was third on the team with 270 kills last season.
"Kim will be a four-year starter, and has become a better blocker every year," Schreiber said. "We will depend on her to maintain her all-conference level of play and carry more of the offensive load."
Another senior, libero Tonia Strebelinski, returns to the starting line-up for the Muskies. A Berlin, Wis., native, Strebelinski finished second on the '08 squad with 410 digs and 26 service aces. As the defensive specialist on a team with strong defensive ball control skills, Strebelinski often doesn't receive her due recognition.
"Because our whole team is willing to play defense and our whole team is willing to serve receive, there hasn't been a lot of stress on her as the libero to have to be a ball hog," Schreiber said. "The liberos that get noticed are usually the ones that are forced to be ball hogs. This year, even though we don't need her to be, we're going to ask her to pass more than she has in the past."
Junior Kristine Raeder is the team's final returning starter. Raeder (Oostburg, Wis.) will replace first team all-conference selection Jessica Sparling as the team's primary setter. Raeder, who was used as both a setter and a defensive player last season, posted 230 assists, 268 digs and 25 service aces in 2008.
"Raeder already played almost half our matches last year as a setter," Schreiber said. "She's got court experience and she's got setting experience. She's not going to offer the same block that Jessica Sparling did, but she was on the court last year already because of her defense, so she'll add that part of the game that we haven't had from the setting position for a couple years."
Sophomore Allison Davis, who emerged as one of the team's most consistent players down the stretch in 2008, will fill the other starting middle hitter position. Davis, a Sheboygan, Wis., native, registered 64 kills and 28 blocks in 22 matches played.
"Allison is someone who, athletically, out-jumped people up front last year," Schreiber said. "She played in the conference tournament championship match, and may have been our best performer in that match for our team last year. She's ready to inherit a more prominent role than she had last year."
According to Schreiber, three players are in contention for the two remaining starting spots: senior Kaylyn Kasper and juniors Sam Shepeck and Jessica Regester.
Kasper (Hilbert, Wis.) saw time last year at outside hitter, tallying 103 kills and 110 digs. Shepeck appeared in only 13 matches last season, but has worked hard to put herself in the race for a spot in the rotation. Regester (Lake Geneva, Wis.), who has played primarily as a right side hitter, will look to replace first team All-NAC selection Heidi Kramer.
"What kept Jess Regester off the floor last year was Heidi Kramer," Schreiber said. "She doesn't have quite the same offense as Heidi, but she's a different type of offensive player that might diversify our attack."
Senior Heather Mayer will see playing time as a "super-sub," or someone who can play a number of different positions.
"Heather came in with no high school experience, and has had to work hard to get where she is now," Schreiber said. "She deserves to be a captain because of her work ethic."
Amanda Laganowski (So., OH, Oostburg, Wis.) and Taylor Daus (Fr., OH, Green Bay, Wis.) will also compete for spots in the Lakeland rotation.
Schreiber has arranged a challenging non-conference schedule for his team to complement the 12-match league slate. The Muskies will face four teams ranked in the top 20 of the AVCA Division III Coaches' Preseason Poll, and could potentially face No. 4 UW-Oshkosh at one of two tournaments.
In addition, Lakeland will host the Muskie Classic, which will take place Sept. 4-5 at the campus's Wehr Center. The Muskies will square off against defending Midwest Conference champion St. Norbert, as well as Ripon, UW-Superior and NAC foe Alverno.
"It will be nice to finally have a home event again," Schreiber said. "We have the type of facility that should be hosting a tournament, and we're a team that, year in and year out, has been competitive and should be hosting a tournament. So it's nice to get one back on our schedule."
The NAC Tournament begins Nov. 3, with the championship match to be played on Nov. 7. The winner of the conference tournament will receive an automatic bid to the 2009 NCAA Division III Tournament, which begins with regional play Nov. 12-14.
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