By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- “Change” is a pretty good word to describe the South Dakota School of Mines women’s volleyball team as they prepare for the 2009 season.
Not only do the Hardrockers have a new coach in Tiffany McCampbell, the SDM team is also adorned with a number of new faces. The squad graduated five seniors from the team, including one of the best libero’s in the conference in Jennie Hiykel as well as a Dakota Athletic Conference All-Conference 2nd team selection in Ashley Kauffman. On top of that, the Lady ‘Rockers are installing new offensive schemes and plays that just take time to learn.
The DAC preseason poll was recently released which had the Hardrockers predicted to finish seventh in the conference. McCampbell said that looks about right at first glance.
“I think it’s appropriate for where we finished last year (7th),” McCampbell said. “What they don’t realize is that we actually return four or five starters from that team as well and they all have another year of experience. That will give us hope that will finish the season better then seventh.
“Our goal is to be in the top half of the conference.”
The Hardrockers welcome eight brand new players to the team. And with anything new, there is usually a learning curve, but McCampbell said her new athletes are picking things up fairly quickly.
Members of the 2009 SD School of Mines Lady Hardrocker volleyball team, front row, from the left are: Brittney LaDue, Justine Serensen, Cathene Malin, Ashley Kemnits and Laurette Beal. Middle row, from the left, are: Jessie Guthals, Madisen Lane, Katherine Hanson, Paige Corcoran, Karina Garber and head coach Tiffany McCampbell. Back row, from the left, are: Kanysa Bartsch, Becky Keilholtz, Reanna Roberson, Alex Mader and Rachel Pekarek. (Not pictured is assistant coach Luciana Camargo) Photo by Brad Blume
SDM netters going through some changes in 2009 SD Mines sophomore Karina Garber goes up for a block during practice Monday. Garber is a middle hitter from Torrington Wyo. Photo by Brad Blume
“For the most part they are adjusting well. We have a couple freshmen that are adapting very quickly,” McCampbell said.
As a whole, McCampbell described her freshmen as a solid, all-around group that is smaller but use their quickness and intelligence to their advantage.
“It takes time with freshmen to get them acclimated to a faster paced offensive style with 14 other people,” she said.
But change is also happening for the veteran players as they have to adjust to not only a new coach and teammates, but a completely new offense.
“It’s a lot faster and a lot quicker. We are trying to utilize the fact that we are undersized physically,” McCampbell said. “These are intelligent kids and we are really trying to use the avenues that we are best at.”
The new scheme is considered a fast offense that uses three middle hitters instead of the traditional two.
Once the offense is learned and executed properly, McCampbell feels her team will be able to compete with any team that steps on the court, noting smarts, ability and more specifically blocking as the things the Hardrockers excel at.
“We are a pretty athletic team and a very intelligent team,” the coach said. “It’s just a matter of trying to get this group to figure out just what type of team we will be. Are we going to be a solid, all-around hard-working team? We need to figure out a team personality.”
With eight new freshmen along with the returning athletes stepping into new roles it will take time, but the Hardrockers have a good mix to complete the task.
SD Mines has just one senior this year in Katherine Hanson, a 6-foot-1-inch middle hitter from Sioux Falls, S.D. Hanson finished with a DAC All-Conference Honorable Mention after recording 221 kills, 17 aces, 312 digs and 71 blocks in 2008. She is already stepping into a leadership role for the ‘Rockers and becoming the floor general. “Katherine brings so much more than she is given credit for to this team,” McCampbell said. “She is a very good player fundamentally and athletically. She is going to be a huge key to this offense as to how fast we can go and whether we can use her as a hitter or a decoy.”
Junior Paige Corcoran, a 6-0 middle hitter from Pierre, S.D., is another veteran player that is a proven volleyball player that is prepared to lead the squad. She missed some time in 2008 with injuries, but still managed to tally 90 kills, seven aces, 62 digs and 51 blocks.
“I am continuing to be impressed by Paige. She has a very good work ethic,” McCampbell said. “She is still trying to come back from her knee injury and see where that knee can take her. She just keeps getting better every day.”
Running a three-middle offense, keeping Corcoran healthy is going to be another important factor in the Hardrockers��� success in 2009.
The third middle hitter has also been with the team for three seasons, but hasn’t seen the court much. Karina Garber, a 6-0 middle hitter from Torrington, Wyo., redshirted her first season and was in a reserve spot last year. McCampbell said as a sophomore, Garber would see a considerable amount of action.
“The biggest things for Karina are going to be her experience, strength and confidence,” McCampbell added. “She’s done very well in preseason. She’s athletic and fundamentally sound, but we have to keep working on her confidence.”
The Hardrockers have a powerful weapon on the outside with Madisen Lane, a 6-0 outside hitter from Fort Collins, Co. She returns with an incredible ability to terminate the volleyball. Lane also had some problems last year with injuries, but was able to play through the pain for a majority of the season. She finished 2008 with 154 kills, eight aces, 91 digs and 42 blocks.
“If we can keep Madisen Lane healthy this will hopefully be a breakout year for her,” McCampbell said. “She can play all the way around, she’s a strong, athletic individual and Madi really wants to be a good leader to this team as well. “
A lot of how Hardrockers fair hinges on Lane’s progress through the early part of the season. She is strong and sound and is working on shot selection and other facets of the game.
The SD Mines 2009 women’s volleyball team scrimmage Monday morning at the King Center in Rapid City. Photo by Brad Blume
SD Mines freshman Cathene Malin goes on the attack during a recent practice as the Hardrockers prepare for the 2009 season. Photo by Brad Blume
With the exit of the DAC Libero of the year, DAC’s MVP senior of the year and holder of many records at SDM, the Hardrockers have replaced Hiykel with Reanna Roberson, a 5-4 sophomore from Windsor, Colo. Roberson was listed as a setter last season.
“She has made that switch to libero easy. She looks like she is a lot more comfortable in the libero role compared to her setting role last year,” McCampbell said. “She is replacing one of the best lieberos ever, if not the best to play (at SDSMT). Reanna has huge shoes to fill, but was able to get some mentoring from Jennie (last spring).”
The setter position was an area of concern last season. The Hardrockers had two freshmen in that role and as they improved, so did the team. This year, SD Mines has some depth at the position, starting with Becky Keilholtz, a 5-5 sophomore from Gwinn, Mich. She returns a year older, more experience and has more confidence to set the ball up. Last year she led the team with 516 assists, had 14 aces and 161 digs.
“Becky has matured mentally and has gained a lot of confidence from the spring until now. She has worked hard this fall and is easily our No. 1 setter,” McCampbell said.
McCampbell added that the offense has been tweaked a little to run more scripted plays which should take pressure off of Keilholtz.
The Hardrockers No. 2 setter is 5-8 freshman Alex Mader, from Miles City, Mont.
“Alex has done a great job of coming in and being aggressive and has worked hard to learn everything she needs to know,” McCampbell said. ���She fits well in our new system.”
Fellow freshman Jesse Guthals (from Colorado Springs, Colo.) is a 5-8 left-handed right-side hitter that may also see time at the setter position.
“She’s just a solid kid,” McCampbell said of Guthals. “She works very hard to compensate for her lack of height.” Ashley Kemnitz (5-7, OH), a sophomore from Vivian, S.D., and Rachel Pakerak (5-8 OH/RS) a freshman from Plymouth, Minn., should also contribute to the 2009 Hardrockers. Kemnitz is coming off a leg injury suffered last spring during track.
“Ashley will see some time on the outside. She’s coming off a knee injury but has done a great job in preseason. She continues to get better every day,” McCampbell said. “Rachel can play all the way around as a freshman. She has great ball control – offensively and passing. She is very quiet but she takes in everything around her.”
Fellow freshmen Kaynsa Bartsch (5-7 OH/DS) from Lubbock, Texas; Justine Sorensen (6-0, MH/RS) from Vermillion, S.D.; Cathene Malin (5-10 OH) from Hudson, Wis.; Brittney LaDue (5-9, OH/RS) from Meadow, S.D.; and Laurette Beal (5-9, RS) from Big Springs, Neb., will all have supporting roles in the Hardrockers quest this season.
“Kaynsa is a solid kid fundamentally and I see her pushing Reanna in that libero spot,” McCampbell said. “Cathene Malin has a very athletic body and we are working on technical training with her. She could see time at either (OH) or (RS). Justine is a freshman middle hitter that we are working to have her gain a lot of offensive experience and add depth to our roster. Laurette and Brittney are new players for us this fall. Our goal is to get them volleyball experience and as much technical training as we can.”
Despite the change in the coaching staff and the change in personnel and the change in offensive philosophies, McCampbell hasn’t lost sight of what she want her team to accomplish.
“The goal is always going to be to get to the national tournament. That’s never happened (at SDSMT),” the coach said. “The main goal is to finish in the Top 4 in the conference with sites on the national tournament and really building a foundation for this program.”
Looking at the conference, McCampbell feels that Black Hills State will the team to beat in the DAC and also thinks Jamestown College, Dickinson State, Minot State and Mayville State along with the Hardrockers will all be slugging it out each week with similar players and skills.
So with all the changes that are going on this season for the Hardrockers, time will tell if they will be changes for the better. McCampbell thinks so --- and she lets her players know that every day.
“We are going to challenge them every day to get better. We will continue to tell them that this is going to be a great program --- whether it’s a month from now or two years from now ---- it remains to be seen.”
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