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ISSUE 117 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/19/2003

Volleyball set to claim MIAC: Oles aiming beyond preseason predictions

By Julie Gunderson
Sports Editor

Friday, September 19, 2003

This year’s volleyball team is making no qualms about where they are headed this season. In fact, any spectator that happens to amble into an Ole practice is bound to get the message loud and clear. Shouts of "MIAC Champs" and "Final Four" echo through the rafters as the girls go through their routine warm-up drills.

"It gets us pumped up to work hard for practice," Jenell Stewart ’05 said.

Although the team is coming off a season in which they finished 2nd in the MIAC and won the MIAC tournament to win an automatic bid to Nationals, some skeptics of the program wonders whether this year’s squad can duplicate the success.

The team, however; is determined to turn their doubters into believers.

"We are going to make it to the Final Four. It may sound extraneous, but we are going to do it," Ashley Novak ‘06 said.

Preseason polls place the squad 4th in the MIAC behind St. Thomas, St. Mary’s and Bethel. Observers note that the loss of graduates Brie Mattson, an all-conference setter, Shannah Olsen, an all-conference powerhouse left side hitter, and Emily Gadzkow-Wold, a middle hitter, will be hard to overcome. However the team does return three starters: Danika Finseth ’06, Ashley Novak ’06 and Andrea Drapcho ’04. Also returning is co-captain Andrea Cuff ’04 who was sidelined with a knee injury last season.

"The thing that will take this team far is not just the starting line-up but the depth," Stewart said. "We have many versatile players that make it possible to have intense competition every day in practice."

Led by this core group of returnees along with added depth, the Oles are putting the league on notice with more than just pre-practice chants.

"They don’t have a clue what is in store for them this season," Novak said. "We are just going to continue the Ole volleyball tradition with a fast paced offense and just having fun. We have a very optimistic outlook for a very successful season."

The Oles, however aren’t underestimating their competition.

"We will see some tough match-ups in the MIAC from teams who normally don't pose much of a threat," Andrea Cuff ‘04 said.

The team started the 2003 campaign with two solid tournament performances before opening conference play losing Wednesday night in a tough fought match that saw the Oles go down 2-3 at home against Macalester.

The Oles placed 3rd at the Augsburg Tournament where they defeated Bethany, Eau Claire, and St. Ben’s before losing to Wisconsin-Stout.

"They [Stout] are definitely a beatable team," Stewart said. "We just haven’t figured out a matchup that works well against them. I hope we get to see Stout again this season to see our improvement."

At Wartburg the team went 2-2, beating Bethel and Nebraska Wesleyan while losing to Wartburg and Simpson.

Despite the losses, team morale remains positive coming out of the competitions.

"We play in competitive tournaments like these to get us ready for our conference season," Novak said.

The Oles are also keeping their opponents off balance with quick strikes and steady hitting.

"We are beginning to gel really well together and our quickness is shocking our competitors," Jillian Dalen ’05 said.

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