2017-18 Season Outlook

The 2016 season ended with a NCCAA National Championship title; and the 2017 team is ready to pick up where they left off. The team has some key positions to fill and will need to blend the roster that has a large number of new players, but they are confident that they can get the job done. The Trolls are determined to return to post-season play and contend for the conference title. It will be up to 11th year head coach Coach Bill Schepel, the NCCAA Coach of the Year, to prepare the team for success.

“We came together last year and peaked at the right time with a national championship,” said Coach Schepel. “We will have to make some adjustments this year, but have the potential to produce another successful season.”
A year ago the season culminated in a national title, but the team experienced success throughout the entire season. They were the CCAC regular season co-champions with a 16-3 record. They also finished with a 31-15 overall record.  From that team the Trolls lost starting players in key positions, such as setter, libero, and two outside hitters. However, they return nine players, including three key starters. Added to the roster are 10 new players to create one of the largest rosters the program has had. Overall the team is young with only one senior and five juniors of the 19 members.

“We are strong in certain positions and will build around our experienced players,” commented Schepel. “The key will be how quickly and successfully we can fill the crucial positions left by graduating seniors.  Our large roster size provides us with many combinations and opportunities, but we will have to see how the incoming class develops.”

The veterans of the team are a large portion of their attacking presence from a year ago. Senior Danielle Oeverman (Byron Center, Michigan) will be the go-to person in the middle. She has earned All-Conference honors for the past three seasons as well as NCCAA North Central All-Region honors. A year ago she led the team with a .313 attacking percentage while averaging 2.11 kills per set. She will also be a big factor in the block as she averaged 0.89 blocks per set last year.  

Junior right side hitter Kacie Stoll (Lombard, Illinois) is the other veteran that will be called on to lead the team. A year ago she was named the Most Outstanding Player at the NCCAA national tournament and also earned All-Conference honors.  In 2016 she led the team with 3.13 kills per set while posting a .226 kill percentage. She also is part of the blocking efforts with a 0.89 block average last season.

The other returning starter is junior Christa Veenstra (Tracy, Iowa), who plays middle hitter/blocker. A year ago she led the team and the conference and was in the Top 10 in the NAIA with a 1.00 block average. She recorded a total of 162 blocks. In addition she posted a 1.40 kill average.

Sophomore Dani Van Laten (Westmont, Illinois) is a returning player who will take on more of a prominent role this year as she steps in as the starting setter. A year ago she helped out the team as a defensive specialist as well as the back-up setter. She has the skill to direct the offensive, but it may take time to find the rhythm with the returning hitters and to adjust to the new players.

The other returning players will fill spots as needed and will be called on to provide leadership. Junior Maggie Tolsma (Rockford, Michigan) is a defensive specialist with experience and junior Melanie Belstra (Tinley Park, Illinois) is an outside hitter who will be in the mix to fill the outside hitting position. Sophomore Ana Lambros (Oak Forest, Illinois) will also vie for time as outside hitter. Sophomore Courtney Sullivan (Riverside, California) can fill a back-row defensive position and sophomore Juliana Dykstra (Holland, Michigan) adds depth to the setting position.

With the number of new players on the roster out-numbering the returning group, the incoming class will have plenty of opportunity to contribute on the court. A few of the incoming players will be called on to make immediate contributions, while others will develop into the collegiate game and their roles.

A couple of athletes that will factor into the rotation as outside hitters will be freshmen Lydia Smits (Crete, Illinois) and Anna Maatman (Lynwood, Illinois), who were teammates at Heritage Christian High School. Both of these players are versatile athletes and help the team with their all-around play. Another freshman who can contribute immediately is Britta Heggeland (Wheaton, Illinois). She provides height and power as a middle hitter and blocker.  The attack will also be strengthened by junior Alysia Folkersma (Buckley, Michigan), who can attack from the middle or right side. She brings experience after competing for two seasons at Muskegon Community College.

Adding depth to the attacking presence of the team will be freshmen Kassidy Barr (Braidwood, Illinois), Amber Ryan (Chicago Ridge, Illinois), and Danielle Zander (Thornton, Illinois). All three of those players can find time as outside hitters. Freshman Alexa Wright (Momence, Illinois) helps out that attack in the setting position.

Defensively the team will benefit from the addition of a couple of back row players. Freshman Brianna Figueroa (Hammond, Indiana) can step in to help the team as the libero as her passing skills and quickness. Also as a defensive specialist is Kyle Ayers (Manhattan, Montana).

The team begins their season with a trip to California where they will face strong competition in the Hope International/Vanguard Summer Slam. They return home to host their own Saint Xavier/Trinity Crossover on August 25-26.  Those tournaments are two of the four tournaments the team will play in this season. They will also participate in the Clarke University Invitational in early September and in the Grand View University Invitational in mid-October.

The conference schedule, which consists of ten single matches and two CCAC Crossover tournaments, begins on September 7 at Governors State University. They will face each school in the South Division of the CCAC twice during the season and the teams in the North Division in the Crossovers, which for Trinity are at Governors State University on October 6-7 and at home on October 27-28.  The Trolls will be in the mix of any number of CCAC schools that can rise to the top of the standings. In the preseason poll, the University of St. Francis and Indiana University-South Bend were the favorites. Trinity was ranked third with Saint Xavier following next. The final regular season conference match is on November 2 with the post-season tournament beginning on November 7.