Defending Champion Panthers Already Looking Ahead To 2011 Season
May 11, 2011
MILWAUKEE - It may seem hard to believe with the 2010-11 school year just now winding down, but the start of the fall practice for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee volleyball team is under three months away.
In fact, practice officially begins August 9, with the Panthers' first match of the season set for August 26 in Arizona. And, once again, expectations will be high for a Milwaukee squad looking to claim its seventh Horizon League regular season title in the last eight years.
The foundation to pursue another title is certainly in place, as plenty of familiar faces return for the Panthers. Horizon League Player of the Year Kerri Schuh (2.88 kills per set, 3.10 digs per set, 1.03 blocks per set) and league newcomer of the year Rachel Neuberger (1.71 kps, 1.08 bps) head the list of returnees, while hitters Elizabeth Egerer (2.69 kps) and Mary Beth O'Brien (2.22 kps) are also back to spark the offense. Defensively, back row regulars Morgan Potter (4.67 dps) and Anna Bartz (2.07 dps) return.
"We have a lot of players now that are experienced in games," UWM head coach Susie Johnson said. "Someone like Mary Beth got a lot of playing time for the first time last season, while someone like Rachel stepped right in as a freshman and is now experienced. Really, we had a lot of players who entered last season without much game experience that finished the season very experienced. Experience always helps and experience in winning really helps. Any new person coming into this program will learn very quickly from her teammates that it is about competing at a high level."
Clearly the go-to person for the Panthers heading in to 2011 will be Schuh, who also claimed AVCA All-Region and honorable mention All-America honors in addition to her league accolades. She has 853 career kills, putting her well on pace to pass 1,000 for her career. Plus, she tallied 301 digs a season ago in becoming Milwaukee top all-around player.
"Kerri had such a great year last year and she got to experience teams gunning for her," Johnson said. "She knows what it's like now to have teams design their scouting report around her and I think that will help her be even better at adjusting on offense."
There will be plenty of other options on offense for Milwaukee this fall. Egerer, O'Brien and Neuberger are joined up front by returnees Melissa Jansen and Mackenzie Millis. Setter Samantha Trawitzke and redshirt freshmen Julie Kolinske and Amber Simonton will also give Johnson additional options.
Then, UWM's four recruits will also factor into the mix. Hannah Blanchard, Kayla Price, Arianna Wiersma and Taylor Golabowski will all be on board this fall and all bring resumes that could land them as part of the regular rotation.
"It depends on how they come in," Johnson said. "We have to play matches about two weeks after practice starts, so there is not a lot of time to get ready. They have to be ready to play in a competitive Division I match. So a lot of it depends on how they come in and how they want to compete. Every one of them has the ability to come in and start, so it is a matter of them working hard over the summer and believing in themselves enough to really do it."
Overall, competition should be very strong when fall practice begins. Even with a strong group of returning starters, the Panthers' depth combined with the talent level of the newcomers should make for a lot of tough lineup decisions.
"There are definitely openings. I always look at every year as a new year and everyone has to compete for their position," Johnson said. "I don't promise anything because I do believe it is about playing the best players to get the wins. They all know that. The competition in the preseason will be better than it has ever been and there will be opportunities for people that have been around and new people that are coming in."