Aug. 12, 2013
Volleyball Sets High Expectations for 2013By David Boyce
As the days dwindle towards the first volleyball practice on Aug. 19, senior captain Mackie Keller would like time slow down just a bit.
Keller is extremely excited about the upcoming season. With so many returners, she is confident Northwest Missouri State will top last year’s record of 15-17 overall and 9-9 in the MIAA.
Once school starts and the season is underway, time flies. Keller wants to savor as much as he can and have just a few more days of relaxation.
“I want the down time before it starts,” she said.
Northwest has the experience, the talent and determination that could propel the Bearcats to the historic success it achieved in 2010 when they made their first-ever appearance in NCAA Division II South Central Regional.
Keller heard a lot about that team. She arrived during the spring semester after transferring from Colorado School of Mines after one semester.
The 2011 season was about rebuilding on the foundation the 2010 team construct. Keller, along with incoming freshmen Abby Graves, Brooke Bartosh and Bailey Vance, learned the rigors of the MIAA.
They all returned last season, but the summer before the start of the 2012 season, head coach Jessica Rinehart stepped down to devote more time to her growing family.
Assistant coach Amy Phelps took over as the interim head coach.
“Honestly, it wasn’t disruptive,” Keller said. “Amy was already here. We knew how she operated. It was not anything new. Of course, there was a little bit different philosophy, but it was really easy to integrate in.”
Phelps had the same competitive fire as Rinehart. The Bearcats showed that fight late in the season when it won several key matches to earn a spot in the MIAA Tournament.
Northwest played so well that Phelps was no longer the interim. She became the head coach. Northwest returns this season with most of its key players back. The only real change is Phelps’ last name. She got married. She is now Amy Woerth.
The players know their roles. Keller and Bridget Hanafin, the two seniors, are the captains. “I feel like we have a system down that we are running,” Keller said. “We have some experience now. Two years ago, primarily everybody on the court was a freshman or sophomore.
“Now we have a lot of experienced juniors and seniors. Even some young people who have come in, I feel can really step in based on what I have seen in camp.”
Northwest wants to be more than a .500 team in conference play or merely competitive with MIAA powers Central Missouri and Washburn. They want to win those matches.
“I think we saw a glimpse of that during our spring season,” Keller said. “We took sets away from them last year. It is on a more consistent basis. It is going to be exciting to see what the season brings.”
Through the ups and downs of last season, the Bearcats stayed together. The proof came in mid October when Northwest lost six straight matches and bounced back to win three straight in late October, including a 3-1 victory at Missouri Southern.
“We have all played together for three years for the most part,” Keller said. “We know what each individual player’s strength is and we are willing to emphasize it and work with it.
“We have a lot of things to look forward to after last year.”
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