NJCAA Div. II Nationals Preview: Sophomores focused on success
WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – The Iowa Lakes volleyball team is already at the site of the 2008 National Junior College Division II Tournament at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
The Lakers (34-22) enter the tournament as the No. 10 seed and will open against No. 7 seed Illinois Central College at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
The winner will take on the winner of No. 2 Cowley vs. No. 15 Community College of Rhode Island at 5:30 p.m.
The losers from each match will play Friday at 10 a.m.
A victory in the first match assures the Lakers of a top eight finish, which would be an improvement from a year ago when the Estherville-based team lost in the opening round and ended 10th overall.
Six sophomores return to the national tournament focused on a better finish.
“This the second time around for them and they weren’t very happy about last year’s,” said Iowa Lakes coach Scott Tschetter. “This has been a goal-oriented team on what they want to accomplish.”
Making the return to nationals are sophomores Mindy Meyer, Teegan Hunziker, Alison Albers, Yawen Xiao, Martha Stover, Caitlyn Moore and Erin Jacobsen.
Albers, a 5-11 setter from Goodhue, Minn., made the biggest change this season, starting as a middle hitter and moving to setter.
Albers also is highly-valued for her blocking ability. She is currently second in blocks per game nationally in Division II with 255 total blocks, an average of nearly 1.7 per game.
The Lakers are very proficient in blocking. With Albers, three other players are rated in the top 50 in the statistic.
Jacobsen, a middle hitter from Virginia, Minn., has 161 blocks this season for an average of 1.05. That rates her 35th in the nation.
Fellow middle hitter Rachael Nelson, a 6-1 freshman from Algona, is rated 41st and Moore, a 5-9 sophomore from Lake Mills is rated 49th. Nelson has 158 blocks this season and Moore has 152.
Hunziker, a 5-8 outside hitter from Milford, and Martha Stover, a 5-6 defensive specialist from Fort Dodge, both are among the national leaders in digs. Hunziker is 27th overall with 739 total digs and an average of 4.8 per game. Stover has 541 total and an average of 4.4 per game.
A key addition this season has been freshman Yawen Xiao, a 5-11 outside hitter who joined the team partway through the season.
“Yawen allowed us to get everyone in a position that we’re most effective,” said Tschetter.
Xiao is 15th in the nation in kills per game with an average of 3.5. She also is in the top 50 in hitting efficiency. In 646 attack attempts, she has 305 kills to just 84 errors.
Tschetter said offense is one of the biggest areas of improvement.
“We’re averaging 10 kills per game, but over the last couple weeks, we’re probably closer to 15 kills per game,” he said.
The coach said he doesn’t have too many concerns heading into the national tournament.
“We’ve had two really good weeks of practice. “our six sophomores, having been there before, they’re more focused on the end result.”
Another key is that the team is healthy for the first time all year.
Meyer, a 5-5 defensive specialist from Fenton, started the season at libero and then filled in when Stover was injured for a couple weeks.
Hillari Heithold, a 5-8 freshman from Hartington, Neb., also helped when players were injured.
Rounding out the roster are Beatriz Basora, a 5-7 setter from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico; Mckenzie Vogt, a 5-7 libero from Winterset; and Julie Hejny, a 5-3 defensive specialist from Spencer.