2010 Men's volleyball season preview: Experienced squad aims to maintain national prominence
Athletics - posted on 1/25/2010
Chad Schreiber loves the competitiveness and will to win on the Lakeland men's volleyball team. At the same time, Schreiber, who enters his 14th season as head coach of the Muskies, hopes his team enjoys the process of gunning for its sixth straight top 10 national finish and second-ever national championship.
"I would describe our team as hungry and focused," Schreiber said, "but I hope they have fun along the way. When we won our national championship in 2008, the first half of the year wasn't as fun because our team approached the game like a business. When we started enjoying each tournament, we started to have success."
Last season, Lakeland finished 42-10 and shared the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference (WVC) regular season title with UW-Oshkosh. The Muskies finished tied for third in the nation after losing to national champion Fresno St. in the semifinals of the NCCS Men's Volleyball Championships in Kansas City, Mo.
"The hardest part is being that close and not getting on the championship court, because it's a whole different experience," Schreiber said following the match. "However, our goal going into the season was to give ourselves a chance to be there, and we did that. We were one set away from the national title match, which is pretty good considering our roster turnover from last year."
There is reason to believe this season's team will equal or improve upon its 2009 performance.
The Muskies return all but one starter and have a wealth of experience and talent at every position on the floor. In addition, with four All-Americans returning, players and coaches are confident in the program's ability to maintain national distinction.
"We have the same approach every year," Schreiber said. "We want to play against top teams to be in the national championship conversation."
Outside hitter Joe Julkowski returns for his fifth season as one of the most decorated players in school history. The Carol Stream, Ill., native is a three-time All-American and the reigning WVC Most Valuable Player. Last season, Julkowski led the team with 502 kills and 47 service aces.
"Joe offers a lot to our team both physically and emotionally," Schreiber said. "He gets it, and he helps others understand how to get it. He's like having another coach on the floor."
At the other outside hitter spot, Schreiber plans on rotating senior captains Dan Judkins and Perry Ringfelt. Judkins (Kaukauna, Wis.) posted 132 kills and a .344 hitting percentage in 2009, while Ringfelt (Elwood, Ill.) collected 67 kills and 109 digs a year ago.
Judkins and junior Chris Kubacki (Vernon Hills, Ill.) will rotate at the right side hitter position. Kubacki, one of the team's four captains, was third last season with 175 kills and second with 101 blocks.
Sophomore Mitch Wiskirchen returns for his second season as the team's starting setter. The Schaumburg, Ill., native led the team with 1,283 assists last season and collected 228 digs and 69 blocks, earning first team All-WVC and honorable mention All-America honors.
"Mitch grew leaps and bounds throughout last year," Schreiber said. "I know he's anxious to start the year with the knowledge he acquired last year. He came in with all the tools, so it'll be exciting to see him play now that he has some experience."
At middle hitter, Schreiber will use grad student Avdo Omerbegovic and junior captain Beau Bradshaw. Omerbegovic (Chicago, Ill.) collected first team All-WVC and first team All-America accolades after recording 243 kills and a team-high 142 blocks. Bradshaw (Oak Lawn, Ill.) posted 137 kills and 69 blocks in 2009.
Sophomore Andrew Cheever, an honorable mention All-WVC and All-America honoree, returns as the starting libero. The Milwaukee, Wis., native led the team with 436 digs from the back row.
"Andrew is such a good player, but he has things he can work on," Schreiber said. "He has been extremely focused on those areas so far in practice."
Schreiber will also look to freshman outside hitter Dane Maier (Middleton, Wis.) and freshman right side Ray Lewis (Las Vegas, Nev.) for contributions off the bench.
Lakeland's 2010 schedule is highlighted by conference matches in the WVC as well as Midwest-10 and Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) tournaments, which feature the top National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) Division I teams from around the Midwest.
Several teams in the WVC could challenge for the league title. In addition to Lakeland, UW-Oshkosh, Marquette and UW-Whitewater have been regulars in the national tournament in the past five years. All four teams finished top 30 of the 2009 NCVF Division I rankings.
The season is highlighted by the annual Hoosier-Illini Classic (Feb. 27-28), where many of the nation's best teams compete. The NCVF National Volleyball Championships will take place April 1-3 in Louisville, Ky.
Lakeland begins its season Wednesday, Jan. 27, at home against WVC foe UW-Stevens Point.
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