2012 Preview: New Richmond volleyball expects to be in MBC title huntThe race for the 2012 Middle Border Conference volleyball championship appears to be wide open with no team as a clear-cut favorite.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The race for the 2012 Middle Border Conference volleyball championship appears to be wide open with no team as a clear-cut favorite.
The New Richmond volleyball team is hoping to be the squad that steps to the forefront to win this season’s title.
This is the most experienced New Richmond varsity team since the Tigers won the MBC championship in 2009.
“Our goal should be to compete for the title,” said fourth-year Tiger coach Bob Fisher. “That’s our goal every year. We’ve got the people, it’s just a matter of developing the flow.”
Fisher said a key for the Tigers is to stay disciplined in their play. The Tigers bring back one of the most experienced teams in the conference, with most of the 11 varsity players in their second or third year at that level.
The Tigers will be one of the tallest teams in the conference. In junior Emily Kukacka and senior Bekah Heitzler, the Tigers have two girls who stand above six feet tall. Fisher said this should be the best blocking team the Tigers have put on the court since the 2009 season. He said it also should be the best ball control team since that season.
The experience on the team begins with five seniors. Leading the group are captains Brittany Ellspermann and Tiffany Olek, who are both in their third year on the varsity. Olek is a top back row player “with a great work ethic,” Fisher said. Ellspermann is a versatile outside hitter who will be a regular in the hitting rotation.
Heitzler is returning from injury that held her back most of last year. She will be used as a middle and right-side hitter, where her strength and size make her a threat.
“She shows flashes of good things. Her challenge is to stay healthy,” Fisher said.
Another returning outside hitter is Anna McShane. A state track qualifier in the hurdles last spring, the coaches are trying to find the best position to put her athleticism to use.
The new addition to the varsity among the seniors is Rylee Rasmussen. She moves up from the junior varsity to become a back row specialist on the team.
There are four juniors on the team and all four have varsity experience. Caelin Giese is a 5-10 middle hitter who has the coaches excited with her potential.
“She’s a hard worker who is just finding out how good she can be,” Fisher said.
Kukacka was an honorable mention all-conference middle hitter as a sophomore. The coaches like the way she is maturing into her role as a lead middle hitter.
Cassie Martie is a third-year varsity member. She was a defensive specialist her first two seasons. This year she’ll also get playing time as an outside hitter.
“She’s got good springs and a good arm swing,” Fisher said.
Alecia Brugler is the fourth junior. She was one of the setters last season, but her season was shortened by a knee injury. This year she’ll be a right side hitter and one of four setters on the roster.
The other setter candidates are all sophomores: Maddie Krumm, Leah Blader and Kate Johnson. The coaches are thrilled to have four quality young setters who they can work with for the next few years.
The fourth sophomore is Sarena Shilts. Shilts will be the team’s libero, the back row defensive specialist. The Tiger coaches believe she will quickly be one of the best liberos in the conference.
The setter position is an example of the depth that runs throughout this team.
“There’s a lot of competition for spots on the team,” Fisher said. “It makes practice really competitive.”
The volleyball program continues to have a bright future, with 44 girls in the program, involving one junior varsity and two freshman teams this season.
For the varsity, the team has many options for the hitting positions. The big test for the Tigers will be how well they can pass the ball.
“We will go as far as our passing takes us. We have the potential to be a very good passing team,” Fisher said. “The best ball control players will get a lot of the court time.”