KOKOMO, Ind. — A young Indiana University Kokomo volleyball team begins the 2018 season ranked first in the River States Conference (RSC).
The Cougars boast only one senior and four juniors on the roster, after going 30-10 and a perfect 16-0 in the conference in 2017.
Sixth-year coach Heather Hayes is excited about the season, which opens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 22 against Marian University, in the Cougar Gym.
While we are very young, I like the energy, fire, and attitude this group has,” she said. “Leadership from our upperclassmen will be very important to set the tone with our young players. I could see us having our ups and downs early since we have so many new faces. However, once they get to know each other, I think this team has the potential to be one of the strongest we have had at IU Kokomo."
The Cougars return one senior, all-conference middle hitter Nicole Sandmann (West Harrison/East Central HS), who was sidelined with an injury for half of the 2017 season. Mary Westover (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Forest Hills Central HS) and McKenna Lundy (Indianapolis/Roncalli HS), starters since they were freshman, return to the team and have done a great job of setting the tone and providing positive leadership all off-season. Defensive specialists Kristi Elson (Gas City/Mississinewa HS) and Mallorie Havens (Fairmount/Madison-Grant HS) also return to round out the upperclassmen.
Returning for the 2018 season are also five sophomores. Nyssa Baker (Fort Wayne/Snider HS), RSC Conference Player of the Year and All American, returns after a stellar freshman season that ended with her leading the nation in blocking. Two-time conference defender of the week Macee Rudy (Middletown/Shenandoah HS) returns, along with Erinn Adam (Bloomington/Bloomington HS South), Lily Goldstein (Indianapolis/Lawrence North HS), and Sarah Morin (Secor, Illinois/Eureka HS), who all saw quite a bit of time on the court as freshman.
During the spring season, the Cougars added some local talent with two sophomores joining the squad. Abby Bowyer, Maconaquah High School standout setter, transferred from NCAA Division II Urbana University. Brooke Haalck, an Eastern High School graduate, also joined the roster.
The incoming freshman class is very strong and consists of six players who all have the potential to make an impact right away. This class has four pin hitters: Sydney Conger of Bloomington High School South, Morgan Weir of West Vigo High School, Alexa Roberts of Noblesville High School, and Molly Ottersbach of Floyd Central. Columbus East setter Kendal Williams and Jay County libero Chloé Trissel round out the freshman class.
There are 11 chances to watch the defending RSC champions at home this season, including Wednesday’s game against Marian — a team that spent most of last season ranked in the top 25. They also have three home matches in September, five in October, and two in November.
The Cougars will play in four tournaments this season. Three tournaments are in the state, as the team travels to Grace College in August, IU East over Labor Day Weekend, and Indiana Tech in October. The team is also traveling in September to Westover’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to compete in the Cornerstone University tournament. It is the first time to attend this event.
The Cougars will get to face some new opponents this season during these tournaments, including matchups versus NAIA powerhouses Cornerstone and Madonna.
River States Conference play begins September 15 when the Cougars host Brescia University at 1 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door for $5 each and season passes can be purchased for $50. Admission is free to IU Kokomo students, faculty, and staff with a Crimson Card, or to children 12 and younger.
For more information go to iukcougars.com or follow along all season on Twitter @IUKVB and @IUKAthletics.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana