August 31, 2012

2012 Season Preview: Volleyball Adds Experience, Depth

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (SabreAthletics.com) – The Marian University women's volleyball team looks to rebound in 2012 after a disappointing end to the 2011 season in which the Sabres tied for the sixth and final spot, but missed out due to tie-breaking rules. Head Coach Kerri Huebel enters her ninth season at the helm and sees a mix of veterans and newcomers being the key to a successful season.

"We started to build momentum towards the end of last year and now we're looking to take the next step forward in 2012," Huebel stated. "I look forward to another year of experience for our returners and the added depth and knowledge of the game from our newcomers."

One of Marian's biggest struggles last year was putting the ball down offensively and scoring on attacks. The Sabres ranked 11th out of 13 teams in hitting percentage and 12th in kills. Huebel has found help for her returners that should bolster the front line and increase scoring opportunities.

"We return everyone except for Betty [Zutz] and have added more weapons than I think we've had in the last couple years," Huebel said. "Kat (Braunling) is going to able to be a better weapon with experience and [Katlin] Jarvis is motivated.

"There's excitement all over the place with experience and newcomers," Huebel added. "We have the capability of putting more balls down than we have in recent years."

Seniors Carlie Kinsey and Aileen Maier lead a front line that welcomes back sophomores Cassandra Klapoetke, Viviana Valenciana and Braunling. Newcomers Anna Smit, who played on the Marian women's basketball team a year ago, as well as, Casey Lamberty should add depth to the position. The help on the outsides will give senior setter Katie Reimer plenty of weapons to work with.

Defensively, junior libero Ashley Zumbrock emerges as the leader of the back line. She led the Sabres with 442 digs a year ago. Newcomer Katrina Jansen is said to become a contributor right away.

"Katrina is going to be one of the best utility players we've had in a long time," Huebel said. "We have more depth in that area. Our back row should be able to play defense more consistency this year."

Huebel believes the conference is wide open this season and that the squad has a chance to make some noise by competing at a very high level.

"I think we're going to sneak up on some teams that might not otherwise expect it," Huebel said. "This weekend will be a good opening tournament. It will be good to see where we measure up with non-conference games against fellow NAC schools. It's a good non-conference schedule that sets up for some success for us."

The Sabres will travel to Beloit this weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, to take on the likes of MSOE, Presentation, Hamline and Macalester. The following weekend, they will take on Alverno, Benedictine, MIT and North Park, all non-conference matches.

The conference and home opener will see Wisconsin Lutheran come to Sadoff Gymnasium, Sept. 11. Marian will then hit the road for three of its next four conference dates, taking on Concordia Wis. (Sept. 13), Benedictine (Sept. 28) and Aurora (Sept. 29) all on the road. Edgewood makes a trip to Fond du Lac, Sept. 25.

The Sabres will then wrap up with five of their final seven NAC matches at home, closing out the regular season with Maranatha at home, Oct. 23.