Thursday, October 23, 2014

OU spikers adjust to new coach, players

By The Herald Staff | 8/4/2014

Making adjustments will be the key to the success of the 2014 Ottawa University volleyball team.

The Lady Braves, coming off two straight trips to the NAIA National Tournament, will have a few changes. The biggest change is Melissa Blessington takes over the program from Tom Symons.

Making adjustments will be the key to the success of the 2014 Ottawa University volleyball team.

The Lady Braves, coming off two straight trips to the NAIA National Tournament, will have a few changes. The biggest change is Melissa Blessington takes over the program from Tom Symons.

Ottawa’s biggest loss on the court was first-team all-conference hitter and NAIA honorable mention All-American Nicole Gingery.

The Lady Braves will attempt to mesh the returners with the new players along with learning Blessington’s system.

“We are going to be a team that has 10 new players and nine returning players,” Blessington said. “I am looking forward to having the support of the returning players, who have been a part of two national tournament berths. I am also excited to have so many new faces on our squad.”

The top returner is senior middle blocker Allie Arnold, a two-time first team all-KCAC selection. Arnold had 242 kills, 36 digs and 128 blocks. Arnold had a season-high 13 kills versus Tabor College and a season-high seven blocks twice.

“Allie is close to having almost 1,000 kills and 500 blocks in her career,” Blessington said. “I look for her to have another great season at middle for us.”

Sophomore Avery Enzbrenner returns after a solid freshman season. She had 185 kills, 54 digs and 30 blocks.

“Avery has great court awareness and does a great job playing defense,” Blessington said.

Junior setter Christa Hill returns to run the offense. She had 715 set assists, 131 digs and 30 blocks. She had 20 or more assists 19 times and 30-plus assists seven times

“She does a great job of distributing the ball,” Blessington said. “Christa will be in charge of running our offense this year.”

Senior Missy Sterling is expected to push for a starter’s role this season as a defensive specialist. Last season, she appeared in 26 matches and finished with 112 digs.

“Missy had a great spring season,” Blessington said. “I will be looking to her to really help control our defense.”

Sophomore outside hitter Keri Tanking will be vying for a starting spot. She appeared in 27 matches last year.

“Keri is a great athlete, who is learning more and more about making great shot selections,” Blessington said.

Senior Taryn Kohn returns on the right side.

“Taryn brings not only great athleticism but also great leadership to our team,” Blessington said.

Junior middle hitter Jessi Gunnels brings toughness and good court awareness.

“Jessi is one of our hardest workers on the team,” Blessington said. “She is has a great knowledge of the game and will be a big help to the new players coming in.”

Senior Libero Molly Sutton is expected to be in the mix.

“She has one of the best serves on the team,” Blessington said. “Molly is also extremely quick on defense.”

Right side hitter Brea Frederick also returns.

“She is an extremely powerful hitter,” Blessington said. “Brea is someone who can put the ball away when she gets a hold of it.”

Newcomers Janaya Fox, Hannah Sittig, Crystal Montemayor, Alyssa Whitmore, Tina Roblez, Britanie Wacoche, Kathy Yang, Chloe Dickerson and Taylor Littleton will be expected to push for playing time.

Fox, a transfer from Southwestern Community College, had 207 kills and 311 digs in leading the Spartans to a fifth-place finish at the NJCAA DII National Championships. Fox was named Region XI MVP and earned all-tournament team honors at nationals.

Sittig, a defensive specialist, is a transfer from Johnson County Community College. She helped JCCC to a third-place finish at the NJCAA DII National Championships. She had 313 digs.

“Hannah has a wide range of skills,” Blessington said. “She has great experience competing at a high level.”

Montemayer is a freshman defensive specialist that will push for playing time.

“Crystal is a versatile player because she can also  be a player in the setter position,” Blessington said.

Whitmore is a defensive specialist and a transfer from Marshalltown Community College where she had 544 digs.

“Alyssa has a great ability to read the hitter and is great off of the first contact,” Blessington said.

Roblez, a freshman defensive specialist from Ward, should vie for playing time.

“Tina is a hard worker who will come in everyday and push those around her to get better,”  Blessington said.

Woache, a defensive specialist, will also play golf in the spring for the Lady Braves. Blessington said she has the ability to hit.

Yang, a freshman defensive specialist from Turner, had two sisters play for Kansas Wesleyan.

“Kathy is very quick to the ball and also does a fantastic job reading the hitter,” Blessington said.

Dickerson is another multi-faceted player who will be a setter and a right-side hitter.

Littleton, a Mississippi Valley State transfer, will play in the middle.

Ottawa opens the season Aug. 25 at home against Benedictine.

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