2017 Maverick volleyball season in review

The Lady Mavs showed great signs of improvement and look forward to 2018

Now that the season has ended for Mavericks volleyball, it’s time for the team to reflect on the 2017 season and make the necessary adjustments for next year’s campaign. The team’s 15-13 overall record wasn’t quite good enough to land in the NSIC postseason, but head coach Lori Rittenhouse-Wollmuth sees plenty of potential with these players.

“I’ve been coaching for over 12 years at MSU. This is definitely the most individual and team growth and improvement I’ve seen in one season,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. “The work ethic, focus and belief in our ability to learn and develop really paid off.”

The team showed early in the season how it could remain vigilant in the face of adversity. The 2017 season opened up in Detroit, Michigan for Wayne State’s (MI) Warrior Invitational. The Mavericks left Detroit with a 3-1 record to begin the year with wins over Wisconsin-Parkside, Gannon University and Ohio Dominican and the one loss was to the host school Wayne State.

“I think our first breakthrough moment was our 3-2 win against Gannon,” said the Mavericks’ head coach. “We were down 0-2 and fought back to win pretty convincingly. I think we learned that it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, focus on the changes and contributions you can make now. We drew on this experience many times during the season.”

MSU had a similar performance the following weekend as it competed in a tournament hosted by the then-No. 23 Northern State Wolves. Once again, the Mavericks ended the weekend with a 3-1 record, only losing to the host of the tournament. Losing to ranked teams would be a pattern for MSU throughout the season.

“We are a young team that simply has to mature, learn how to make in-game adjustments and how to thrive in the last 5 points of a set,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth earlier in the season when addressing the team’s inability to defeat ranked teams.

Despite not being able to close out those matches against ranked opponents, the Mavericks still played competitively. The most notable of these matches was against the Concordia – St. Paul Golden Bears, who finished the season with the top seed in the NSIC postseason.

Statistically, the team out-killed its opponents with 1,258 kills against the other team while the opponents had a collective 1,131 kills against the Mavericks. Errors were a different story, as MSU committed 20 more errors than its matchups over the season.

Junior hitter Sydney Powell led the team with 234 individual kills and a hitting percentage of .212. Right behind Powell was freshman Alivia Garbe, tallying 230 kills and a .271 hitting percentage according to the team’s website.

For next season, the head coach wants to work on becoming a more efficient team when it comes to ball security and efficiency on offense.

“This spring we are going to put a lot of emphasis on developing our first ball contact,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. “One of our strengths is offensive balance. We have numerous high-level hitters, to utilize them well we need to pass the ball well and control the counter attack.”

Freshman Mara Quam was far-and-away the defensive leader for the Mavericks in the 2017 season. Quam finished the year with 421 digs, which is 222 more digs than Garbe, who is the next closest player on the team for that statistical category.

The team’s up-and-down performance throughout the season netted them an above .500 overall record and ended the season on a two-match win streak over Minot State and University of Mary. Late-season losses against two No. 1-ranked squads and an ever-improving No. 7 Northern State was the eventual dagger for MSU’s playoffs hopes. The team finished with a 9-11 NSIC record.

With only two current seniors (Jackie Jones, Megan Hulscher) on the team, the Mavericks are poised to make improvements and hopefully snag a coveted playoff spot in the 2018 season, should the team stay healthy.

“We had quite a few injuries this season that forced us to move players from position to position,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. “We talked all season about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, focusing on the ‘controllables’ and playing with and for our teammates. This mentality allowed us to push back and as opposed to being pushed over. We had a very selfless team.”

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