SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.— We caught up with women's volleyball Head Coach Dave Schmidlin to discuss the upcoming season, the team's incoming freshman class and his thoughts on beginning his third season at Lake Superior State. The women's volleyball team opens its season with an exhibition match against Alma College inside the Bud Cooper Gymnasium on Tuesday Sept. 3 at 6:30pm.
Q: Talk about the strides the program made last season and how you're looking to build on that heading into the 2019 season.
A: Our program took some small steps forward in 2018. First, we became much more competitive, playing in 13 five-set matches. We played a lot of freshmen and sophomores, so we have some experience coming back. We are hoping last year's experience can translate into a few more wins this year.
Q: You are entering your third season as head coach - you've seen an improvement in the team's record with each season you've been at the helm. As you've built a level of comfort and familiarity with the university, how does this impact you as a coach compared to previous years?
A: As with anything else, the more time you spend someplace, the more comfortable and familiar you become with your surroundings, processes and people around you. I feel I am better prepared to help and counsel our players in academic and personal matters than I was when I first arrived. Just having time to build relationships has been extremely beneficial.
Q: Last season the team posted a 5-22 record and 13 of those matches went to a decisive fifth set last season. How close is this team to breaking through?
A: In some ways we are closer to breaking through, in other ways we are still a ways away. The returning players had a productive spring season and we have witnessed observable growth since last fall. However, we have an extremely young team. Last year's five seniors played a significant role in our growth. Replacing their leadership will be the biggest challenge. They knew what we needed as a group and they knew how to get things done. We are extremely young this year with only two seniors and two juniors. They, along with a few of last year's freshmen are stepping into new roles and learning on the fly, and have really done a good job.
The other challenge will be figuring out who will play our libero and defensive specialist positions. Abby Beachnau is the only returner with significant playing time. Junior Kyra Vezina, sophomores Beachnau, Rylee Eisenga (a transfer) and freshman Sydney Briney are all competing for those spots. We should be good at the setter position. Sophomore Halle Grulke has improved a great deal, and freshman Emily Kalinowski is a highly skilled setter with a strong volleyball IQ. We go at least five deep at the middle position, so I think we are strong there. Camdyn Odykirk, Joan Ogemaw, Caitlyn Kane, Kelly Walter and Nina White have all improved since last fall. Outside hitter is still up in the air. Amanda Reid has one outside position locked up. Sarah Bailey has made tremendous strides and should see a lot of playing time. Freshman Taylor Fleming seems to get a little bit better every day. Beachnau could also slide into that position, if needed. We have several good athletes at the outside position including freshmen Malia Howe, Kaitlyn Bishop and Rachel Beelen who need to get acclimated to this level of play. Overall, from an athletic standpoint, we are really good. But, we are probably the youngest team in the GLIAC, so there is still a learning curve we have to get through. Our breakthrough will depend on how long that takes.
Q: Since you've been at Lake State, this is your biggest incoming class so far. What can you tell us about this group?
A:This group compliments last years group very well. Our depth has doubled from last year. There is a mix of kids who will play right away, and some others who will provide us with depth and continue to develop in practice. There are also a few that are extremely raw, but have the potential to blossom into important contributors down the road. Briney, Kalinowski and Fleming have stood out in the preseason. Rylee Eisenga has been a pleasant surprise and brings a competitive fire into the gym. You can tell she loves to play. Malia, Kaitlyn, Avery, Kayla and Rachel have all had their moments in practice, as well. This group will definitely brings a lot to the team, both on and off the court.
A: Their leadership will be extremely important. They did a nice job last spring and I look forward to watching them continue to grow into these roles as leaders. They have been with me the longest and understand how high our expectations are. They all work extremely hard at being good players and good students. Most importantly, they have done a nice job of helping the new players get acclimated to our culture. I have a lot of faith in their ability to lead this group as we enter the season.
For more information on the 2019 schedule, please click here.
For more information, follow LSSU volleyball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.