BY GRACE McDOWELL
With a record of 15-8 and a conference record of 9-2, the McKendree women’s volleyball team is “digging” their way to postseason. In last year’s postseason, the team made it to the GLVC championship and lost, but they were still qualified for nationals before falling to Truman State in the first round. The bearcats are hoping for an ever better postseason this year.
Sophomore Maria Rasch comments on how the team is preparing: “Our team is prepping for postseason by getting stronger in the weight room to be able to last for all the tough five match sets, all the way until the end of the NCAA tournament.” Comparing to last year, Rasch believes the team will clinch the GLVC conference and advance to the elite eight in the NCAA tournament this postseason.
So, what makes the women’s volleyball team so successful? What dynamics are put in place on and off the court?
Junior Sophie Fairman answers this question: “I think what is really special with our team is that everyone on the team both talks and listens to each other. No one person dominates the team, and we all value each other’s presence on the court. We are all onboard to get to the same goal, to be the best team and win.”
The volleycats have recently made some impressive accomplishments. They overpowered one of their biggest rivals, the Lewis Flyers. Lewis was ranked 18th in the nation at the time and is ranked first in the GLVC East Division. With an impressive record of 22-2, beating Lewis was a major achievement. The volleycats have also recently defeated Staginaw Valley State, ranked 25th in the nation. The volleycats’ perseverance and hard work have paid off when standing against these high-ranked teams.
Rasch described what is involved in a typical McKendree volleyball practice. “Practices are really relaxed,” she says. “We usually watch a film for 30 minutes. Then, we just warm up with serve and pass for 30 minutes and play for an hour. We get to listen to music, and we have push-up contests for which team gets to serve.”
The team’s senior night was held Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. against Drury University. Seniors Jaden McBride, Hannah Wessel, Taylor Voss and Lauren Apetz were honored. The volleycats won in an exciting three-set sweep.
Apetz reflected on the special night. “I loved all of the support I got from my family, friends and teammates. I also loved getting the final kill of the match. It brought me to tears. It is crazy to think that my collegiate career is almost over, and I can’t wait to see how far we go this year.”
With the countless hours spent together on and off the court, it is no wonder these girls have bonded over this sport. Fairman reflects: “The coaching staff definitely has brought together and created a family that not many other teams are lucky enough to be a part of. I can say with one hundred percent honesty that I love and cherish each and every one of my teammates and their friendship.”
On the subject of school spirit and support at their volleyball matches, Fairman thinks this year has been the best yet that she has seen. She commends the football team for their energy that creates a fun atmosphere at home matches.
For the bearcats that have never attended a McKendree women’s volleyball match, Rasch says you are missing out. “We are not the ones losing,” she says. “You are.”
Cheer the women’s volleyball team on as they inch closer to postseason!