KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo’s volleyball team sets its sights on a conference championship for the 2015 season.
“We’re capable of doing it, and we want it badly,” said Rachel Allen, one of two seniors leading the team. “We have a lot to be proud of, and it’s only going to get better.”
The team kicks off the season August 19 at Goshen College, and will host its first home match Wednesday, August 26 against Marian University, in the Cougar Gym.
Coach Heather Hayes sees great potential in the team.
“They’ve set some lofty goals,” she said. “It will be neat to see them reach for those, and see if they come to fruition. We have the talent to compete, if we are healthy.”
Hayes expects returning seniors Allen (Lizton/Tri-West HS) and Cortney Hanson (Logansport/Logansport HS), as well as junior Kaleigh Ensley (Fort Wayne/Snider HS) and sophomore Lindi Thomas (Parker City/Wapahani HS), to step into leadership roles.
“I have asked more of them this season, and they are meeting the challenge,” Hayes said. “In terms of experience, they are all good leaders.”
Allen has been on the team since it began, during the 2011 season, and Hanson joined in 2012. Both are amazed by the progress they’ve made in five years.
“The first year, it was a struggle,” said Allen. “To go from a 6-25 record to 25-8 last year is a pretty good feeling.”
Hanson agreed, adding that she enjoys being a respected team in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team finished second in the regular season in 2014, and garnered many accolades — including Coach of the Year for Hayes, and Newcomer of the Year for Thomas.
“This year, we want to be known for how hard we work, and how much intensity we bring to the court,” Hanson said. “We are determined to do what we can to win the conference, and go to nationals.”
Hayes has seen development in all of her returning players.
“They’ve grown and matured as athletes,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in their approach to the game, and in their leadership style.”
The five new players have fit in well, and bring much-needed height and depth to the team, she said. They include freshmen Elizabeth Schapker (Wadesville/North Posey HS), Brook Karle (Crawfordsville/North Montgomery HS), Corinn Dennis (Fort Wayne/Snider HS), and Nicole Sandmann (West Harrison/East Central HS), along with Casie Divine (Bloomfield/Eastern Greene HS) who previously played at Vincennes University.
“To get to our goals, we needed more height, to better match up with our opponents,” Hayes said. They also add depth, which we really needed in a lot of our positions. This is a huge factor for us.”
Ensley said the depth of talent motivates them all to work harder in practice.
“You’re competing for positions, so you practice even harder than before,” she said.
Additional veteran players are Alexis Brickner (Wabash/Southwood HS), Kaley Harness (LaFontaine/Southwood HS),Casey Colgate (Wanamaker/Lutheran HS), Keeana Walton (Peru/Maconaquah HS), Maddison Taylor (Brown County/Brown County HS), and Elyse Younger (Fishers/Fishers HS).
For a complete IU Kokomo volleyball schedule, go to iukcougars.com
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.