Women's volleyball aspires to return to NAIA tournament

The Trinity women’s volleyball team found great success throughout the history of the program, and last year was no different. During the 2018 season, the Trolls made it to the NAIA National Championship before getting knocked out in the opening pool play round. This year, the team wants to earn their third consecutive bid to NAIA Nationals.

The Trolls lost some crucial pieces of their lineup after losing an All-American and two All-Conference performers, but with a solid group of returning players, this group shouldn’t miss a beat heading into the season.

“Although we graduated a few key players, we bring back a solid core group of returning athletes that should allow us to remain competitive in the conference and at the national level,” said head coach Bill Schepel, who is heading into his 13th season at the helm of the program.

Even with the loss of those key players, the Trolls have some key components that will benefit their offensive and defensive efforts. Dani VanLaten (Westmont, Ill./Timothy Christian High School) ended her junior season as the CCAC Setter of the Year and with NCCAA/AVCA All-American honors, among other awards. She is expected to start in the setter’s position again this year and will help mix up the offense.

Junior Brianna Figueroa (Hammond, Ind./Whiting High School) will also be back on the court for the Trolls this season. The CCAC All-Conference second team selection has been the libero for Trinity since her freshman year, and it is anticipated that she will be in that role again this season.

Two other big contributors returning for the Trolls are senior Ana Lambros (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest High School) and junior captain Anna Maatman (Lynwood, Ill./Heritage Christian High School). These two contributed greatly to the team’s offense in 2018 and are expected to do the same this season.

Along with these players, the returning group from last season and the new, incoming talent are expected to help the Trolls hopefully reach the NAIA tournament again for a third consecutive year.

With losing one of their big blockers, they may not be as dominant in that area of the stat sheet. But with the depth the team is expected to have, they will be able to make up points by mixing up their offense and being less predictable to other teams. 

For this season, the Trolls hope to finish in the top two in their conference again this season, but their biggest competition will come from Saint Xavier and Olivet Nazarene.

The team will kick off its season at the Viterbo University Invitational on Aug. 22 and 23 before hosting the Saint Xavier/Trinity Crossover on Aug. 30 and 31. During that tournament, nationally-ranked opponents will come and compete against the Trolls.