How do you feel, overall, heading into the season?
I think that systematically, we’re about two weeks ahead of schedule compared to last season. I’m pretty happy with our set of freshmen and transfers who have all worked hard to develop our system. As for our players, however, because we’re so young, we’re a little behind last year’s team in terms of trying to get them experience and skilled. At the end of the day, it looks like its a wash; they’ve developed well, we’ve scrimmaged well against each other and every day we get more experience, the better off we’ll be.
What are your goals for the season?
As always, our goals are 20-plus wins and giving ourselves a chance to win the conference. It’s important to try and finish in the top four in the conference so we can host the first round of the playoffs, and it’ll be easier for us on the travel. We want to win our conference, and we want to work our way toward the NCAA tournament. That doesn’t change year-to-year based on a change of people, it’s overall program goal.
With no seniors on the team, where’s the leadership going to come from this season?
Our leaders will be all our juniors, sophomores and freshmen. We have 18 leaders. We haven’t chosen any captains, and we’re still waiting for those one, two or three people to flourish into their role of leadership, but for the most part we expect everyone on this team to be a leader.
Your top three scorers from a year ago have graduated and moved on, are there any players you’re looking at right now to replace those scoring roles?
Any one of our five attackers can score points for us, it just really depends on the day. Nobody is ahead of anyone else as of now, and we’ll figure it out our first few weeks as to who our go-to players will be down the stretch, but everyone on this team has the potential to reach that role.
Which new faces should we be watching out for?
We have four new faces starting for us on Thursday. (Junior setter) Stacy Kalsbeek, (sophomore middle hitter) Anna Aycock, (freshman left setter) Madison Whitehead and (freshman middle hitter) Kayla Chosa are some new faces that will hopefully fill those senior roles that departed us in last year’s graduation.
A recent GLIAC preseason poll had NMU finishing in third place for the second straight season. How do you feel about the poll considering the offseason changes to the roster?
We were a bit surprised to see that, considering we lost five of our seniors last year, but I think it goes to show how respected this program is. We’re expected to be at this level every year. We might have lost great leadership last year, but we have other players who are going to step up, go out there and help win.
Does the season schedule play in your favor?
The schedule really works out in our favor in terms of when we’ll be facing teams in our division.
With our development of our younger players, we have two really senior-lacent teams in Grand Valley and Ferris, while Ashland is returning as a good sophomore and junior oriented team. We don’t really play those more experienced teams until later in the year, and when we scrimmaged them this past weekend we played really well against them. We have a good shot this season as long as we continue to develop and make changes along the way.