Momentum builds for volleyball in offseason training
After making a seven-win leap from 2012 to 2013, the Concordia University volleyball program is already several months into an offseason that will set the tone for the 2014 campaign. Head coach Scott Mattera’s Bulldogs hit their conditioning program hard after Christmas break and are now in the midst of an eight-week spring practice schedule.
One primary focus of this offseason has been to bring the team even closer together while fostering a winning culture that cultivates character.
“They were disappointed when the season was over. We’ve seen a group that was really hungry to get back at it,” Mattera said. “Our focus has been on our team and program culture. We set out on a quest to lay out who we want to be and it’s really produced some awesome stuff in terms of our unity, vision and core values.”
Mattera and the program released five “vision areas” on the team’s Facebook page during the month of February. Those five components are (1) Competitive Greatness, (2) Academic Success, (3) Models of Christ in the Community, (4) Tangible Community Support and (5) Reputation of Volleyball Excellence.
These vision areas will help guide a program clearly on the rise. Last season’s 17 wins were the most for Bulldog volleyball since 2007. There were also hints at even better days to come. In the team’s final match, Concordia won the first set while pushing a Midland team that ended the season ranked No. 7 nationally.
It appears to be only a matter of time before that big breakthrough win surfaces. All the key players will be back in 2014, each stronger and more prepared to handle the rigors of the GPAC.
“So far Tiegen Skains and Taylor Workman have been highlights. They have really hit the weight room hard and made big gains athletically,” Mattera said. “Alayna (Kavanaugh) has had a real good offseason. Claire (White) has had to take some time off with a minor injury but she’s about as healthy now as she could possibly be.”
Paige Getz, who racked up 304 kills as a freshman outside hitter, has competed as member of the track and field team since the end of volleyball season. Her development along with the rest of the 2013-14 freshman class including Kavanaugh, Skains and Workman will be vital.
There are several other returners who will also factor into the team’s 2014 success.
“Some other highlights have been the way Kelsey (Dinkel), Kendra (Dinkel) and Libby (Zagel) have stepped up and bought in with their work ethic and leadership,” Mattera said. “They have developed not just as volleyball players but as young ladies. It makes my job a lot easier knowing I have so many girls I can trust.”
This spring Mattera has also had the opportunity to watch three of his four incoming recruits via the club circuit. Just like last year, newcomers will be given their chances to become part of the equation. The new class brings impressive credentials.
“Three of them had major offers but they preferred our culture,” Mattera said. “So they have already bought in.”
The 2014-15 recruiting class will include 6-foot-2 middle Annie Friesen (Trinity Academy – Kansas), 5-foot-5 defensive specialist Jocelyn Garcia (Prairie View High School – Colorado), 6-foot right side Shannon O’Hara (Heritage High School – Colorado) and 5-foot-11 right side Alaina Ruszkowski (Nona High School – Florida). Friesen and O’Hara are both explosive athletes that are strong both attacking and blocking. Garcia is a steady defensive standout who plays with “a ton of heart and athleticism.”
All of these pieces combined with a culture designed to breed winning and foster Concordia’s Christian athletes have the Bulldogs highly anticipating this fall. Concordia volleyball is ready to take on increasing expectations.
“The overall feel around this team is so much more about determination and confidence,” Mattera said. “Hopeful is too weak of a term. Expectations have risen but not in a way that puts too much pressure on us.”
The Bulldogs will continue spring practice throughout the month of April. The first match of the 2014 season will take place in late August. The full schedule will be released later this month.
3 April 2014
Scott Mattera enters his third season as Concordia head volleyball coach in 2014.