Aug. 7, 2006
Bearcat Volleyball Begins New Era Under Head Coach Anna Tool
(PDF) Northwest head volleyball coach Anna Tool will look to lead the Bearcats to their first conference tournament appearance since 2000 after leading Virginia Wesleyan to the semifinals of their conference tournament the past two years. The Bearcats finished the 2005 season 15-19 and seventh in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) with a 5-11 record.
"I am excited to be at Northwest and a part of Bearcat athletics," Tool said. "The volleyball program has all the resources to become a top team in the conference and nationally competitive."
Steph Martin, also new to the Northwest coaching ranks, returns to her alma mater as the new assistant coach. She spent the past year as the head volleyball coach at Maryville (Mo.) High School.
The Bearcats return three seniors from the 2005 squad: setter Molly Hankins, middle hitter MacKenzie Heston, and outside hitter Sarah Trowbridge. Allison Hyland, an outside hitter, rounds out the senior class as she returns from a medical redshirt year to finish her eligibility. Hankins finished last season's campaign ninth in the MIAA for assists per game and stands fifth at Northwest for career assists per game. Heston is currently in the top-10 of Northwest charts in both career attacks and attacks per game. Trowbridge was named to the All-MIAA Honorable Mention team last season and is listed under seven career and season top-10 charts.
"The experience the senior class brings will help the newcomers make a strong transition to college volleyball," commented Tool. "With seven newcomers joining the eight returners, all players will be fighting for playing time. The added depth to the program will make for a very competitive environment this year."
Katie Stilwell, a junior setter, will be the fourth starter returning from last year's squad. Stilwell led the team last season in service aces and currently stands sixth in career assists at Northwest. Junior libero Nicole Wojtowicz will push to bring consistency to the back-court along with freshman Kelsie Haug and Ashley Ward. Other newcomers vying for positions are freshman Priscilla Bremer, Iesha Haskins, and sophomore transfer Monica Short at the outside hitting position along with freshman setter Katie Swenson.
Sophomore Amy Bohnker, redshirt freshman Ashley Mitchell, and Heston will be challenging each other for the two middle hitting positions. "Those three all pushed very hard this spring and made huge gains that will show this season. Establishing a strong middle attack will make our offense more well-rounded and tougher to defend," said Tool.
The 2006 MIAA Preseason Coaches poll picked Northwest to finish ninth with Truman State gathering the most votes, followed by Washburn. "I don't mind being the underdog this first year," Tool said. "I feel this team is ready to make an impact in the MIAA and we have the players do so."
Northwest will be starting off the 2006 season in Joplin, Mo., at the Missouri Southern Tournament on Aug. 25-26. After the Missouri Western/Ramada Inn Invitational on Sept. 1-2, the Bearcats will open MIAA play against Southwest Baptist on the road, before heading to Topeka, Kan., for the Washburn Invitational on Sept. 8-9.
The Bearcats will open home play against last year's conference tournament champion Truman State, on Sept. 12 in Bearcat Arena. The new addition of the MIAA, Fort Hays State, will see their first conference competition with Northwest on Sept. 30 in Maryville, Mo.
Five teams on this year's schedule ended their 2005 seasons in the final top-25 rankings of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, including two MIAA conference institutions.
Northwest volleyball will look to see conference tournament action beginning on Oct. 31. With the MIAA back at 10 teams for the 2006 season, division play has been introduced to determine conference tournament participants. As a member of the East Division, the Bearcats will have to place in the top four of the five team division to advance to the MIAA Volleyball Tournament. The first round will be hosted by the top two seeds in each division. Second and third round action will take place at West Division sites.
Members of the East Division are Truman State, Central Missouri State, Missouri Western State, Northwest, and Southwest Baptist. Washburn, Missouri Southern State, Pittsburg State, Emporia State, and Fort Hays State will make up the West Division.
NCAA Tournament play begins Nov. 9 at campus sites.
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