The Horizon

Bump! Set! Spike!

Grenadier volleyball is back and ready to make a run at RSC title.

The+volleyball+team+celebrates+a+point+during+a+home+match+against+Cincinnati+Christian+University+last+season.+The+Grenadiers+home+opener+will+fall+on+Thursday%2C+Aug.+30%2C+at+7+p.m.+against+St.+Mary-of-the-Woods.+
The volleyball team celebrates a point during a home match against Cincinnati Christian University last season. The Grenadiers home opener will fall on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. against St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

The volleyball team celebrates a point during a home match against Cincinnati Christian University last season. The Grenadiers home opener will fall on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. against St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

Stephen Utz

Stephen Utz

The volleyball team celebrates a point during a home match against Cincinnati Christian University last season. The Grenadiers home opener will fall on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. against St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

Samuel Murphy, Sports Director

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The 2018-2019 athletics year is set to get underway with the return of Grenadier volleyball right around the corner.

On paper, the 17-20 record from last season may not seem too impressive. After starting the year 0-11, the injury-ridden Grenadiers finally got healthy and rattled off 12 consecutive victories through the first half of conference play. The squad finished the regular season with a strong 11-5 record in conference but exited the River States Conference (RSC) tournament early after two quick losses.

The ten returning players, plus the addition of a deep recruiting class, have trained hard during  the summer to make a run for the RSC crown.

“We’re spending a lot of time bringing our freshmen up to speed quickly because many will have a lot of opportunity to play and contribute early,” Eric Brian, head volleyball coach, said. “The incoming class is really strong and we need them to be on the same page so we can play well together.”

Early Challenges

Like most teams at IU Southeast, the volleyball team will start off their season against a tough non-conference schedule.

Playing schools in a higher tier than NAIA, like Division III Hanover College and Earlham College, allows the players to gain more experience against better teams and work out the kinks before conference play.

Our tough non-conference schedule better prepares us for our conference schedule,” Monica Loftus, senior setter and right side hitter, said. “It makes us work harder and become better as a team when we play tougher opponents.”

The Grenadiers will also face strong competition early within the NAIA, like University of the Cumberlands, who come in ranked fourth in preseason polls.

We’ll be challenged early at a tournament in Bowling Green by teams out of the Mid-South Conference, including University of the Cumberlands which should be really strong this year,” Brian said. “We also have a home game against the defending national champions from Lindsey Wilson College.”

New Faces

The incoming group of freshmen will play a pivotal role in the team’s success this season. They will be able to add a layer of depth to the roster the Grenadiers did not have last season.

“We lacked size and depth in a few positions last year, especially when we sustained some injuries,” Brian said. “The 2018 class is not only a strong class, but they have size and fill those spots we were short on last year. I expect several of our freshman to make big contributions.”

With five of the six players coming in at 5-foot-9 or taller, the impact that size will have has yet to be seen by fans, but other players on the team have taken notice.

The six new freshmen has been a huge help to our team’s dynamic,” Maddie Jacobi, senior defensive specialist, said. “We were missing some key parts but all of the freshmen have stepped up to fill the roles needed for us to be successful.”

As a senior, I’ve realized how important it is to set the tone at practice and hold my teammates accountable. We have a lot of underclassmen this year, so Monica and I have a lot of responsibility on and off the court.”

— Maddie Jacobi, senior, defensive specialist

Loftus has also noticed an immediate impact made by the freshmen players.

“[The freshmen] are all going to make a huge impact on our team,” she said. “I believe that this year we will have more depth than we have had since I’ve been here and that not only helps us to be more successful in games, but also makes our practices more competitive, which will ultimately make us better.”

Team Leaders

As is with the start of any new season, new players are thrusted into a leadership position they may not be accustomed to. For Loftus and Jacobi, it is critical for them to step up and help guide a team with so many young players.

“As a senior, I’ve realized how important it is to set the tone at practice and hold my teammates accountable,” Jacobi said. “We have a lot of underclassmen this year, so Monica and I have a lot of responsibility on and off the court.”

Brian said he thinks Loftus certainly has the talent to lead the team, but needs to step out of her comfort zone and lead in other areas.

Monica is a great player for us and is an all-conference caliber player,” he said. “The team really looks to her to have a great season, but she’ll have to be more than a six-rotation player. She’ll have to get out of her comfort zone and be more vocal as a leader.”

Loftus said she understands how much responsibility comes with being the team leader, but credits past seniors with shaping her into the leader she is today.

I’ve had great seniors since I’ve been at IUS who have taught me how to be a good leader,” she said. “Katie Fischer, in particular, was someone who I really looked up to because of her hard work and dedication to the game and to the team. I still keep in touch with her and ask her questions, and I love hearing her advice about how to be an effective leader.”

The team’s expectations for winning a conference title are nothing new for this season. However, the confidence in achieving that goal is growing with the coaches and players after each day.

“We will be a tough team to beat and our goal is to win regular season conference [championship] and to have a 20 — or more — win season,” Loftus said. “Overall, I believe we will be a fun team to watch and we will be the best we’ve been since I have played here.”

The Grenadiers will host Hanover College for a scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 23, at 6 p.m. The home opener will be the following week against St. Mary-of-the-Woods on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m.

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