2016-17 Season Outlook
The 2016 volleyball team has experienced much success under the direction of head coach Bill Schepel and that tradition is expected to continue this season. The Trolls have become a fixture in post-season play and they do not plan on relinquishing that position this season. Last year, with a young squad, they captured the conference tournament title and advanced to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. Returning a large portion of the veterans, the Trolls will build on that success and strive for continued positive results this year.
“We had a great finish to the season last year and hope to pick up where we left off,” said Coach Schepel, who is in his 10th season as head coach. “Based on last year’s success and the number of players that are returning, we should be able to continue our streak from the past six seasons of advancing to a national tournament.”
A year ago Coach Schepel took a very young squad with 10 new players to a 23-17 overall record and a third place finish in the conference at 16-3. The team also made the program’s third NAIA national tournament appearance. With a career coaching record at Trinity of 259-123, Schepel knows how to get the best out of the players and to put together a winning combination on the court.
Like last season, the Trolls have a roster that consists of a large number of new players. Of the 17 players on the team, nearly half are incoming freshmen. However, unlike last season, the team has a core of nine returning players with experience and almost the entire starting line-up back. The team will be able to field veteran players and has key leaders in every position on the court. The talented starting line-up knows what it takes to be successful and will set the tone for the team.
“We have a strong, experienced core of players with all, but one, starters back from last year,” said Coach Schepel. “While we have added a large number of new players, they will be able to develop and learn the collegiate game as the season progresses.”
One of the team’s strengths again this year will be its defensive, and heading that cause is senior defensive specialist/libero Michelle Busscher (Holland, Michigan), who provides talent, stability, and leadership. Last season she led the team and the conference with 5.12 digs per set while also posting a .956 reception percentage and a .975 serving percentage. She was named the CCAC Libero of the Year as well as the NCCAA North Central Region Player of the Year. Sophomore Maggie Tolsma (Rockford, Michigan) gained experience last year and can also step in to help. Joining the defensive effort are freshman Sarah Bushrow (Murrieta, California), who is also an outside hitter, and Courtney Sullivan (Riverside, California).
The attack will come from a number of individuals and positions. Sophomore Kacie Stoll (Lombard, Illinois) made a big impact as freshmen. She was named the CCAC Freshman of the Year and earned NAIA All-American Honorable Mention and NCCAA All-American honors. As a right side or outside hitter, she led the team and the conference with 4.29 kills per set. She also averaged 0.65 blocks and 2.33 digs per set. She will be a major factor in the Trolls’ attack and teams will have to stop her to slow down the team.
Junior Danielle Oeverman (Byron Center, Michigan) will command respect as a middle hitter. She missed the first part of the 2015 season in injury rehabilitation, but came on strong in the second part of the season with a 2.24 kill average behind a .242 kill percentage to earn second team all-conference honors. The team will look to her for offensive as well as a blocking presence.
Also contributing to the strength of the offensive is senior Tina Massey (Lansing, Illinois), a starting outside hitter from last year. She averaged 2.18 kills per set last year and had a total of 37 ace serves. Senior outside or right side hitter Rachel Verhage (Moses Lake, Washington) missed last year due to injury, but was contributor in her previous seasons. She brings leadership and stability on the court with her all-around play. Sophomore Christa Veenstra (Tracy, Iowa) returns as a starting middle hitter. A year ago she led the team with 0.76 blocks per set while also claiming 1.55 kills per set. In addition sophomore Melanie Belstra (Tinley Park, Illinois) is an outside hitter who can step in to aid the attack.
The new players who will add depth to the attack include five freshmen. Michaela Rappa (Roseville, California) and Jada Schallhorn (West Olivet, Michigan) will help out at the middle of the net with the attack and the block. Ana Lambros (Oak Forest, Illinois) is an outside hitter and Katelyn Baker (Northbridge, Massachusetts) plays the right side or the middle.
Providing experience in the setting position is senior Tori Mantel (Gainesville, Florida), who earned all-conference last year. Mantel averaged 9.29 assists per set, led the team with 44 ace serves, and helped out defensively with 2.97 digs per set. Helping out and sharing the load with Mantel will be freshman Dani Van Laten (Westmont, Illinois), a two-time all-conference pick from Timothy Christian High School. In addition to playing setter, she can provide help in the back row. Also adding depth to the setting position is freshman Juliana Dykstra (Holland, Michigan).
The team will be put to the test for the first time this season on August 19-20 in a tournament at Bethel College. They follow with tournaments over the next two weekends, including their own Saint Xavier/Trinity Crossover on August 26-27. Throughout the season will also participate in two other weekend tournaments. Overall these events provide tough competition that will challenge the team and prepare them for their conference schedule as well as for post-season play.
The conference schedule for the Trolls begins on September 6 at Governors State University. The team will play a total of 19 CCAC matches of which 12 are single matches against schools in the South Division of the conference. The other seven matches, against school from the North Division, will take place in the CCAC Crossover Tournaments. For the Trolls those crossovers are on October 7-8 at Robert Morris University and on October 28-29 at Judson University. In the preseason conference poll Trinity was ranked No. 2 after the favorite Olivet Nazarene University. Other top favorites include the University of St. Francis and Saint Xavier University and Indiana University-South Bend. All the teams will be vying for the conference title and the post-season tournament that begins on November 8.