FORT WAYNE – While a considerable amount of talent from last year’s team gathers on the Gates Center floor for an afternoon practice, IPFW women’s volleyball coach Kelley Hartley Hutton admits she’s not concerned with the individual skill level at this particular juncture.
Eventually, perhaps, she will smell the roses. But with the season opener arriving Friday night against Murray State on this same court, the 14-year coach is dealing with the thorns.
Talentwise, they’re there, and I tend to forget that, Hartley Hutton said. We’re pushing them, and they’re working really, really hard. But until you play somebody and it starts showing up in the win-loss column, you can forget (the talent) pretty easily. Right now, as a coach, I’m looking at what we need to work on, not how good we are at some things. Hopefully, soon, I can look a little more at our strengths.
And the strengths are everywhere.
The Mastodons lost one senior from last year’s 21-9 team, which finished second in the Summit League.
Four seniors – all of whom will likely start in the 7 p.m. match Friday – are led by All-Summit League second-team setter Megan Steenhuysen and second-team defensive specialist Tessa McGill. Middle blocker Jessie Manwaring, the team’s second-leading kill producer, and Haley Emenhiser, comprise the other two seniors.
And then there is Emily Spencer, the conference’s freshman of the year and last year’s leading scorer for IPFW with 455 kills. Kendall Wienkes, an all-freshman team member last season, also returns after ranking fourth on the team with 193 kills.
It is early, but I think we have more depth than we’ve ever had before, with the freshmen coming in, said Steenhuysen, who averaged 11.1 assists per set last year. I’m not sure if they’re going to see the court right away, but they have the potential to, which is really going to push those in front of them.
We have more options. We have people who can play multiple positions, which can confuse the other team. Depth-wise, we are better than last year. We were pretty young last year. We had only one senior. Our outsides were young, and they’re back again.
We have the potential to be better, but we have to prove that.
There is more than talent and experience returning, however. There is the bitter memory of last season’s end, when the second-seeded Mastodons lost to No. 3 seed Oral Roberts in the Summit League tournament, played on the IPFW floor.
Being at home made it sting even more, Steenhuysen said. We had to come back and watch the finals. That was hard. We don’t want to end on a note like that. We want to end on a happy note.
We started our freshman year winning (the Summit League tournament). It was the one of the best feelings in the world, even for those of us who didn’t play. It was a great experience, and we want to try and do that again.
Notes: The first night competition at Saint Francis’ Bishop D’Arcy Stadium will be held Friday when the Saint Francis men’s soccer team will face Indiana Tech at 7 p.m. Lights were installed at the stadium this spring. Trine University recently named Jeannine Ravellette head coach of the women’s lacrosse team. Ravellette was a softball assistant coach for nine years at Bradley and Southeast Missouri State.