Tag Archive | "Volleyball"

Young volleyball team prepares for tournament

This is uncharted territory for the Indiana Wesleyan University volleyball team.

The Wildcats have won 30 or more games in each of the last three seasons under the veteran senior leadership of legendary names like Yui Iwase (alumna ‘12), Kelsey Masuda (alumna ‘11) and Taryn Cocallas (alumna ‘10).

But this season’s roster holds a lot more youth than previous teams, with 11 underclassmen on the 15-player active squad.

Even with the team’s overwhelming lack of experience, IWU ended the regular season tied with senior-laden Bethel College for the Crossroads League title heading into the first round of the conference tournament Tuesday.

Remy Bucknor (fr) stretches above the net for a block against Mt. Vernon.

“With the team that we have, I feel privileged and grateful that we’re tying for co-champions in the conference,” said coach Candace Moats. “I saw the athleticism we had with the young group, but I didn’t quite know if the maturity would get us to that. So the accomplishment today to get there feels like it was all worth it.”

The young Wildcats ended the regular season with a 3-0 victory against Mt. Vernon Nazarene University to clinch a share of the league title and raise IWU’s record to 25-10.

While it would take a winning streak of historic proportions to earn a fourth consecutive 30-win campaign, Moats said she communicated a “nothing to lose” mindset to her team heading into the Crossroads League tournament.

“Let’s get ourselves to a place where we get experience at as high a level as we can so that when next year comes around you’re going to be familiar with this pathway,” Moats said. “Because we’re going to be back on this pathway again.”

The team isn’t solely focused on conditioning for future tournament runs, although Moats added this year’s young players will be “phenomenal” in the coming years. Another goal the 12th-year coach outlined was keeping the seniors on the court as long as possible.

Rae Brandes (sr) leaps high in the air for a kill against Mt. Vernon.

Seniors like Rae Brandes.

The three-time Crossroads League Hitter of the Week and two-time Player of the Week finds herself in a major leadership position this year along with her twin sister Rebecca Brandes (sr) and Kristine Egebrecht (sr). For this group, that means producing on the court in each match.

“The leadership role this year is playing our best every game just because we’re going to be big key players, and we’re working hard to keep the team unity alive,” Rae said.

But Rae also said the transition is easier because of the immense underclassmen talent.

“It’s a testament to how good they truly are even just as freshmen and how much potential they have,” Rae said. “It’s been a little different because now we’re the seniors and it’s a different feeling. It’s big role, but with the underclassmen we have, it’s been good.”

As for the team producing in postseason play, Rae said the Wildcats are just now hitting their stride after snapping a four-game losing skid.

“You hit those dog days and it gets kind of slow for a little bit and I think we just got our energy and passion back full force and it’s a good time for it,” Rae said. “We’re a super athletic team so as long as we go all out the whole time and not make as many errors as the other team I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”

The Wildcats face Mt. Vernon in a rematch to open the Crossroads League Tournament Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Luckey Arena.

Posted in Sports, Women's AthleticsComments (0)

Women’s volleyball bounces back strong

Twelve sets in a row. The Indiana Wesleyan University women’s volleyball team has dominated the past four Crossroads League games by not losing for almost two weeks.

Sept. 13 marks the last loss the Wildcats team had. In that game, they played at home against the Bethel College Pilots, and lost in three straight sets.

Since then, the team defeated Goshen College, Huntington University, Marian College and Grace College.

Head coach Candice Moats said the game against Bethel allowed the team to identify how they still need to improve. Prior to that match, the team won four Crossroads games in a row, and 12 sets just like the streak they are on now.

Even though they had that previous stretch of games, Moats said the offense still needed to improve even more to get past the loss.

“Sometimes you can just cruise through, and then all of a sudden something happens that makes you stop, and you go, ‘how did that happen?’” Moats said. “And then you start looking deeper at things, and evaluating things better.”

Outside hitter Kristin Predajna (so) said after the Bethel loss, the seniors on the team pointed out that they needed more energy and communication.

“We were playing kind of individually instead of playing as a group together,” Predajna said. “So we worked on each game for more maturing and to cheer for everyone else, and not become selfish or consumed with our own play, but play for the team.”

In addition, Moats said the coaches decided to control the offense a little more on the sidelines, especially having a young and new setter this year — Katey Holler (so) — who Moats said needs to learn not only her own techniques, but those of all the other hitters on the team.

Holler took over for All-American setter Yui Iwase (alumna ‘13) this year after only playing a little last season in the back row of the court.

After the Sept. 18 victory against Huntington University, Holler said she and the coaches focused on her setting in practice for just one day. Through that and the next two games, Holler won the setter of the week for the Crossroads League.

“I was really shocked about it,” Holler said of her accolade. “But it meant a lot because it showed me that hard work does pay off if you do come in and put in the work.”

In addition to Holler, outside hitter Rae Brandes (sr) was selected Crossroads League player of the week.

From Sept. 27-28, the team plays in the Judson/Robert Morris Tournament in Elgin and Chicago, Ill. Moats said these tournaments are usually more challenging than normal Crossroads League games.

“We generally go to those tournaments with the expectation that we’re going to be playing a little bit over our heads with some of the teams there,” Moats said.

The Wildcats play against Columbia College and Judson University Sept. 27, and then Trinity Christian University and Robert Morris University Sept. 28.

Posted in Sports, Women's AthleticsComments (0)

Wildcats dominate in Crossroads opener

The Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats volleyball team looks to continue its dominance over the rest of the Crossroads League during the 2013-14 season. Heading into Wednesday night’s league home opener, the Wildcats had tallied a 33-3 record versus conference opponents since 2010.

Make it 34-3.

Kristine Egebrecht (sr) had 13 kills as IWU shook off some early rust to stymie Spring Arbor University in straight sets, 25-12, 25-13, 25-22.

The Wildcats and Cougars played a close first set to start, battling to a 7-7 tie. But IWU took over from there, going on an 11-2 run highlighted by back-to-back emphatic kills by Kristin Predajna (so), leading to an eventual 25-12 victory.

Egebrecht stepped up in the second, leading the Wildcats as they raced out to a 6-0 lead that turned into a 25-13 set win. IWU took care of business in the third, holding off a late Spring Arbor run to close out the match with a 25-22 win.

“As we keep going through our season you can tell we have a lot of young people,” coach Candace Moats said of her team. “We’re learning and getting better; some of the improvements showed up tonight.”

Rae Brandes (sr) contributed to the cause with eight kills on the night, with Predajna posting six. Remy Bucknor (fr) had four kills of her own as IWU won its fourth straight.

The Wildcats (6-3, 1-0) take on rival Taylor University this Friday at 6 p.m. in Luckey Arena.

Posted in Front Page, Sports, Women's AthleticsComments (0)

Exceeding expectations: Volleyball team to play in Nationals

Coming into the fall 2012 season, expectations were tempered for the Indiana Wesleyan University women’s volleyball team. Yes, it would be good, and possibly contend for the Crossroads League Championship, but it would not compare to the 2011 team that finished with 36 wins against just six losses and featured a host of extremely gifted seniors.

But boy, did the Wildcats prove those expectations wrong.

With an overall record of 35 wins and two losses thus far, heading into the NAIA National Championships, the team ran roughshod through the Crossroads League, winning both the league and tournament titles.

Head coach Candace Moats was pleasantly surprised with her team’s success this season.

“I knew I had student athletes coming back that had high-level skills, but I was reflecting more on who I lost than who I had,” Moats said. “I was really surprised by the performance, even in the first weekend [going 4-0 in the Lee Invitational]. We went out with the desire and hope that we would be a good team and pull together.”

And a good team they became, thanks to an unwavering desire to achieve their three intangible team goals.

“No. 1 was to build and maintain a cohesive spirit within our team. The second one was to be selfless leaders, especially within our upperclassmen and those who had gone to the Athletic Department Leadership Summit,” said Moats. “Our third goal was to play and work really hard.”

Setter Yui Iwase (sr) thought the attention to these goals played a big role in the team’s success.

“We all came into preseason ready to go. I think we really had our eyes on the prize with our goals,” Iwase said. “[This season] has exceeded my expectations, not that I had low expectations by any means, but I think our record shows the hard work we’ve put into it, so we’re just reaping the benefits of that.”

Moats said the little things the team did throughout the season were also big factors in their success.

“As a student athlete, it takes a lot more work off the court to manage your sleeping habits, your nutrition and your academics,” Moats said. “We think that those tangible things that you always wish for will come if you do the intangible things like taking care of yourself and your character.”

Middle blocker Kristin Predajna (fr) has enjoyed being on a team that is not only skilled, but cares about the intangibles like team chemistry and cohesiveness.

“My teammates give me good advice, and if I’m down, they give me support,” said Predajna. “Stine [middle hitter Kristine Egebrecht] gives me great advice, and the other upperclassmen also help me with when and where to hit the ball.”

As for the NAIA Nationals starting Nov. 17, the main tangible goal the No. 7-ranked Wildcats are focused on is getting out of pool play, which requires placing in the top two teams of the four-team pool. Last year, the team failed to get out of their pool. But Moats is hopeful that this year will be different.

“We have an advantage this year because we are going back, and we can’t claim this to be our first experience. We now understand what has to be done,” Moats said.

The Wildcats are seeded second in their pool, and are slated to make it into tournament play.

As Iwase put it, “I don’t think the goal of getting out of pool play is too far out there at all.”

But like the rest of their season, winning games isn’t the only thing the Wildcats are concerned with doing at Nationals. Moats has the team thinking bigger.

“Obviously, we would like to keep our poise as we are playing. We would like to keep a strong witness for the Lord as we have tried to do every match,” Moats said. “And we definitely want to stay together as a team.”

Posted in Front Page, Sports, Women's AthleticsComments (0)

Follow The Sojourn on Twitter