Energized volleyball program begins new era

By on Aug. 30, 2012 in Volleyball

Energized volleyball program begins new era

At a glance:
Head Coach:
 Scott Mattera (first year)
2011 Record: 11-21 Overall; 4-12 Great Plains Athletic Conference
Returning Starters: 4
Key Returners: MB/OH Amanda Abbott, OH Angela Bruhn, S Kayla James, OH Amanda Kisker, RS Kim Miller, MB Mariah Schamp, L Carli Smith
Key Losses: MB Marlee Denton, S Alexa Hopping, MB Ashlea Vaudt
2011 GPAC All-Conference (*denotes returnee): Marlee Denton (Honorable Mention), *Amanda Kisker (Honorable Mention)

Seven-year head coach Rachel Miller decided to step down following the 2011 season to spend more time with her family. The Bulldog athletics Hall of Famer gives way to the energetic Scott Mattera, who brings NCAA Division I, NAIA and high school coaching experience to the position.

Mattera inherits a squad that went 11-21 overall with a 4-12 GPAC mark in 2011. Since beginning at Concordia late in the 2011-12 school year, the University of Toledo alumnus has been blown away by the infectious enthusiasm throughout the entire roster.

“The attitude, the energy and the spirit of the girls – it’s amazing,” said Mattera, most recently the top assistant coach at Montreat College (N.C.). “We literally have a team with zero drama. They really cheer for each other but are willing to compete with each other for spots. The energy level surrounding the program right now is awesome. They really believe in what we’re doing and what our future holds.”

That positive atmosphere has been fostered by seniors like outside hitter Amanda Kisker (2011 GPAC Honorable Mention All-Conference) and right side Kim Miller. In the midst of the coaching transition, the duo has been a rock for a program looking to return to the success it had from 2005 to 2007 when it averaged almost 22 wins per season.

“They’ve just done a good job of buying in and letting everyone else know that they’re on board for their last season and looking really good,” Mattera said. “Kim actually improved hugely athletically. She was touching about 9’7” when we did our testing before we left (for the summer). So I’m really excited about having that type of athlete on the right side to give us a good, solid block out there. Amanda’s been in the gym working with our setters to better connect on the outside with them, so I think we’re going to see big seasons out of both of them.”

The biggest change stylistically comes within the team’s offensive system. The Bulldogs got their first taste of this shift during the spring season. For Kisker, one word describes the schematic transition best.

“Faster – he wants to run everything faster,” Kisker said. “Setting-wise, he wants to do quicker sets middle to the outside but maybe slow it down behind for the right side. You get going faster, you can pass quickly and get your offense going, you’re going to beat teams to the block and get points.”

“We’re basically running a spread offense,” Mattera said. “It’s not a volleyball term, it’s a football term, but it’s a similar concept where we’re looking for good matchups and getting hitters into space. Overall, we’re going to find out a lot when we get in the gym and really start practicing system-wise.”

Kisker will play a key role in the more frenetic offense. The 5-foot-10 Lincoln native paced the squad last season with 315 kills, which placed her 12th in the GPAC.

She will get plenty of help from a sophomore class that was thrown to the fire in 2011. Middle blocker/outside hitter Amanda Abbott, setter Kayla James, middle blocker Mariah Schamp and libero Carli Smith each played in at least 22 of the team’s 32 matches last season. Smith led the team with 350 digs, while Schamp topped Concordia with 84 block assists.

The incoming freshmen class will need some time to get acquainted with the atmosphere of college athletics, but defensive specialist Naomi Pfeil could see time immediately. Pfeil and many of the other nine newcomers bring winning pedigrees to Seward. Middle blocker/outside hitter Brianna Hughes transferred to the Bulldogs after beginning her career with perennial power Concordia Irvine (Calif.).

Middle blockers Marlee Denton (2011 GPAC Honorable Mention All-Conference) and Ashlea Vaudt and setter Alexa Hopping (led team with 546 assists in 2011) have graduated, but Kisker sees no reason to expect the program to do anything but move forward.

“I have higher expectations than we’ve had in the past,” Kisker said. “So many people have improved. We started three or four freshmen last year so now they have a year under their belts and know what’s going on. The transition to a new coach will be a little different. He’s going to run things a little different, but we expect to be better than last year. He says it all the time, ‘We’re going to win more games.’ And he’s told me, ‘I’m going to make you have a good senior season.’”

The positive environment harbored by Miller throughout her tenure has carried over thus far in Mattera’s first months on the job. This winning attitude along with top-notch facilities has Mattera ecstatic in his new digs.

“Walk in and look around. It’s an amazing place to call home,” Mattera said. “We have facilities that are second to none. I’ve come up the D-I route and been part of that. Our facilities and infrastructure are absolutely Division I level. Then we match that with the spirit that actually cares about the entire person, not just their vertical or their arm swing, and that’s why I’m here.”

The Mattera era gets started on Friday at 1 p.m. when the Bulldogs square off with Baker (Kan.) as part of the Bellevue Labor Day Tournament. Concordia plays again on Friday against Benedictine (Kan.) at 5 p.m. and then on Saturday faces No. 13 Grand View (Iowa) at 1:30 p.m. and No. 19 Belleuve at 5:30 p.m. The Bulldogs' first home match is Sept. 11 versus GPAC rival Doane at 7:30 p.m.

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