Young volleyball team eager to begin season
As students settle into the swing of classes and the school year, fall sports also kick off. Last year, the CSC volleyball team failed to make it into the Rocky Mountain Activities Conference Tournament at the end of the year. The first eight seats in the RMAC continue into the post-season. The Eagles finished No. 11.
Rudy Leasau of LaMesa, California, one of the Eagles’ top players, with 345 kills, 217 digs, and 50 blocks logged at the end of the season, graduated in May. Alia Brennan of Chadron was another influential player that graduated in May. She ranked third in total kills at the end of last season with 202, and led the team in blocks with 68.
Fortunately, Gaby Varela, senior of Dorado, Puerto Rico, will be returning to the court. Last year she was a top player, logging the second highest kills with 292, the third highest digs, 188, and earning the fourth highest blocks with 49. Varela isn’t the only talent returning to the court.
Emily Bruce, senior of Centerton, Arkansas, was the top defensive player last year, logging a total 483 digs and 70 assists, offensively.
Leading the team in assists last season was Madison Webb, junior from Loveland, Colorado. Webb logged an impressive 988 assists and contributed 183 digs and 27 blocks. She came in fourth in the conference, with an average 11.01 assists per set and, according to the CSC Athletics page, she leads the team in career starts with 50 as she transitions into her third year as an Eagle.
Joining them in the return are Dominika Senkerikova, junior of Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic; Katie Thoeny, sophomore of Lakewood, Colorado; Timmi Keisel, redshirt sophomore of Fleming, Colorado; and Ashton Burditt, sophomore of Spearfish, South Dakota.
Toward the end of last year’s season, Keisel, a redshirt freshman then, was pressed onto the court and showed great potential.
There are only seven returning players, which leaves 11 women coming fresh to the Eagles court, nearly half the team.
Head Coach Riann Mullis said this is a lot of new players to introduce to the court at the same time. During the off season, they focused a lot on ball placement, ball and body control, and “making smart decisions as a whole.”
“I’m really happy with how the off season went and we put in a lot of work,” Mullis said.
There are enough returning players to fill the court and we’ll have to see how well the new players and the experienced Eagles have adjusted to playing together in these coming weeks.
Last season, Mullis told The Eagle that they were disappointed they didn’t make it into the RMAC Tournament. This year there are a lot of fresh faces to the roster but the talented recruiting class looks to improve from last season.
It’s to early to tell if the Eagles are going to make a run into the RMAC Tournament this year but the outlook seems favorable if the team can keep it together, play together, and communicate – which was something they tended to struggle with last year.
“We need to focus on what we can control and being competitive,” Mullis said of the upcoming season. “We can control where we want to place the ball, we can control our work ethic, our attitude, communications, effort. We can control where we want to place the ball, the setters (control) who we want to hit. We can control our side of the net and how disciplined we stay.”
This is Mullis’ second year coaching CSC and it will be with a green team this year: five of the incoming players are freshman, nearly a third of the team.
The diversity serves the Eagles well, however, if they only take advantage of this opportunity. It’s not ideal that there are so few returning players this season, but they can buy the Eagles some time until the new players get a chance to spread their wings and show their abilities to perform on the court.
The Eagles will start their season on the road in Seward this weekend at the Bulldog Bash, playing York College at noon Friday and the tournament host, Concordia University of Nebraska at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, they play Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa, at 10 a.m. and University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota, at 1 p.m. Live stats will be posted on the CSC Athletics page and the games against Concordia and Northwestern will be live streamed.
The first home game for the Eagles will be Friday, Sept. 15, at 6 p.m. against University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, in the Chicoine Center.