The Ellsworth Community College volleyball team is gearing up for the 2016 season. The team is returning two sophomores and welcoming eight incoming freshman. The young team has big goals and aspirations for the season.
When asked about her goals, Head Volleyball Coach Ashley Clark says she's more interested in sharing what the team came up with for themselves. "The team's own goals blew mine out of the water. Their first goal is to finish at least 4th in the conference. This will be a difficult one, but I do believe we have a shot. They also want to win more than lose, which is realistic for this group and our schedule. Their final goal is to have more aces than errors from the service line, which is achievable, but they will have to focus really hard."
Clark would also like her team to have GPAs of 3.0 and a cumulative team GPA of 3.2, with strong team chemistry enabling them to retain freshmen who move forward to sophomore leadership roles next year.
Sophomore returners Tiffany Jacobson and Carlin Whelpley will be looked at as leaders of the team. Both girls are captains for ECC this year, and they know how their opponents play, as well as how Coach Clark coaches. "They know that I care, and they know that my way of teaching the game can be successful if it is applied to the team," says Clark. "I'm hoping they keep the freshmen focused on applying what I'm teaching." Jacobson was the top scorer from last year, accounting for 258 kills, 26% of the total kills last season. Whelpley accounted for 246 digs last season, which was 20% of the total digs for ECC.
"Carlin has always been very consistent, and is looking to have a better year this year with the hopes of continuing on to play at a four-year university. Tiffany did not get the year she wanted last year, so she has come back with a vengeance that is driving her to be the best she can be for her team and for herself," said Clark. "Both of these girls know what it takes to succeed at this level and in this conference."
Along with Whelpley and Jacobson, incoming freshman Nicole Nielsen was voted by the team to be a captain. "I would like some continuity moving forward," commented Clark. "Nicole will learn how to lead from her two counterparts, attend captain's meetings throughout the year, get to know me a little better, be involved in coin tosses, etc. This will allow her to grow as a player and a leader moving forward."
The incoming freshmen are full of potential and untapped talent and have high goals and expectations for themselves. "Over the first two weeks together, I have seen them improve by leaps and bounds, and that makes me happy and excited for this year and the following year."
Madison Hoch is the team's one true middle. She will be a solid blocking force for ECC, as well as be a viable option on offense. She is a strong personality and leads with her voice.
Amber Workman is a right side who can also set. She has been getting a lot of setting repetitions over the last couple weeks and is learning how to set a complete offense. She will play an important role both in running the offense and being an option within the offense.
Nielsen is a ball control athlete. She has proven to be the most consistent freshman on the team and will play a key role for the Panthers this year. Not only can she play volleyball, but she is physically and mentally tough, which will only help to push her teammates.
Ashley Kraber is one of ECC's setters. She is also getting a lot of setting repetitions over the last couple weeks and is learning how to run a faster offense than she used to in high school. She works very hard, is focused on improving, and she is consistent.
Myriana Martinez is one of the team's defensive players, coming to ECC from Puerto Rico. She is quick and plays really good defense, but she is also improving at a fast rate. She will give Whelpley a run for her money for the Libero spot, but either way both of them will be on the court in the back row. They are too good not to be playing that half of the game.
Mikayla Fiehtner is one of ECC's front row players, and she's a powerhouse. She will be playing some middle and outside for the Panthers because she really can hit the ball. She is working to control that power, but she will have the green light to swing away.
Allison Sheridan is our lefty right side. She has known Coach Clark almost as long as the two sophomores, so she understands her coaching style and expectations. Sheridan will be an important asset due to her intelligence, as well as her constant improvement.
Alexis Charles was a late pickup for ECC who transferred after a redshirt year at Coffeyville Community College. Having that year of experience at this level, and in a competitive gym, has already proven to be beneficial. She is a hard-hitting front row player and she will score a lot of points for the Panthers.
When asked about improvements from last season Clark said, "The biggest thing that I want to improve on from last year is our overall ability to compete. We saw a team last year who didn't know how to compete when opponents and times were tough, but this year I believe that will be different. I think I have freshmen who want to improve and compete, and who believe that they can achieve at a high level. I believe that those facts will push this group to persevere and compete day in and day out regardless of who's on the other side of the net."
The Panthers will open their season on the road competing in the Ridgewater Tournament in Willmar, MN on Aug. 26-27. ECC won't play its first home game until Monday, Sept. 5, against Wartburg JV at 7 pm.