Volleyball Expects Another Great Year
August 26, 2003
Class. Excellence. Tradition. Those are the words that best describe the Lakeland College Women's Volleyball program under the direction of Chad Schreiber the past eight years. Coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance and their second straight Lake Michigan Conference regular season championship, the Muskies have high expectations once again.
Last season, Lakeland finished 32-5 overall and 12-0 in the LMC. Furthermore, the Muskies became the first team in conference history to win 36 straight games en route to their truly perfect conference season.
With a taste of what it takes to get to the top, Lakeland hopes to go one step further this season and advance for the first time ever in the postseason, even with the loss of four starters. And they plan on doing it by playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
"Replacing four starters and having a tougher schedule might mean some losses during the regular season, but should pay dividends at the end of the season," said Schreiber. "We hope to be better at the end of this season than we were in 2002."
Schreiber will have to do it without Kim Wooster, who many will argue is the best player to ever come through the Muskie program. The numbers back it up as Wooster is the career leader in assists, aces and digs, while ranking first in the same categories for season records. In fact, Wooster has the top three seasons for assists and the top two for digs, while she is also ranked third in a season for aces.
"We lost 70 percent of our offense and the person directing it," said Schreiber. "I really can't say enough about Kim. She was the headline player that came through our program that was as good off the court as she was on it. She made the coaching look really good."
Schreiber also lost Theresa Falk and Erin Bechill to graduation, and recently learned that Leeann Humpfer will miss the year recovering from Hodgkins disease.
"Both Theresa and Erin made concessions early in their career to get on the court and ended up being bookends for us last season," added Schreiber. "The loss of Leeann is secondary to her health concerns. We just look forward to her recovery as she is an inspiration to our whole team."
But with depth being one of the strengths of any good program, Schreiber looks for some key returners and solid newcomers to fill the void.
Senior Monica Draeger, a three-time All-LMC performer returns at middle hitter, as does Melissa Braaksma, an honorable mention All-LMC selection. Braaksma also was a strong performer in the classroom last season finishing as a Second Team Academic All-American.
"We'll rely on these two for their experience and leadership abilities besides what they bring to us on the floor," said Schreiber.
Schreiber will also look to newcomers Erin Helbing and Jennifer Kwilosz to make an immediate impact. Helbing, a freshman, was an Honorable Mention All-State selection at outside hitter for Cuba City High School.
"Erin's coming out of high school experienced, having played many different positions and also having the opportunity to have played for competitive high school and club programs," said Schreiber.
Kwilosz is a junior college transfer from Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. Last season she led Moraine Valley to the Junior College National Championships last season where they made the final four.
"Jennifer should add depth to the setter position with the loss of Wooster," added Schreiber.
With the loss of four starters Schreiber wanted to bulk up his schedule with the hopes that his team will mature quickly. The Muskies open their schedule on September 3rd verses Lawrence, but then jump right into the meat of their schedule by hosting UW-River Falls, Elmhurst, and St. Norbert the following weekend. All four teams (including Lakeland) won their respective regular season conference title last year.
Lakeland will also play nationally ranked UW-Whitewater (defending national champions), UW-Oshkosh, St. Thomas, St. Olaf, Central College (IA) and UW-River Falls and St. Norbert again.
Within the conference Lakeland's main competition will once again be Marian, who had won five straight LMC titles prior to last year (Lakeland and Marian shared the title in 2001). But Schreiber also sees up and coming programs in Edgewood, MSOE, and Wisconsin Lutheran.
"Last season was so successful and so rewarding it will be hard to top," said Schreiber. "On a day-to-day basis early on we won't be as good as last year. But we expect to be better in the long run if we stay healthy and maintain a positive attitude."
If all goes to Schreiber's plan, and history says it will, expect the Muskies to shoot for their third straight LMC title, another NCAA bid, and their sixth straight 20-win season.