The Wayne State volleyball team will look for its third consecutive postseason appearance this upcoming season.
The Warriors wrapped up the 2017 season with an overall record of 16–13 and a 10–6 record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. WSU finished second to Grand Valley State University in the GLIAC South.
The Warriors earned a berth in the GLIAC Tournament, where they beat the Lakers in the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Ferris State in the semifinals.
Despite the team falling two wins short of an NCAA Tournament appearance, senior captain Hailey Richardson said advancing to the semifinals was a big step for the team.
“I was happy that we made it out of the first round of the GLIAC Tournament last year, but we need to improve on that,” Richardson said. “(With) this being my senior year, I want to win the GLIAC and compete for a national championship.”
In the GLIAC preseason poll, the Warriors were selected to finish second in the league (behind the Bulldogs) and were picked to win the GLIAC South.
Senior captain Ellie Rodriguez said the team’s senior leadership could be crucial for success this season.
“We have a lot of experience coming back as a team,” she said. “We are expecting to do some good things this season.”
While contributions from the upperclassmen may have a large role in WSU’s forthcoming performance, fifth-year head coach Tim Koth said redshirt freshmen outside hitters Taylor Wagner and Lauren VanderWal could be “X factors.”
“They’re both 6’1” and both athletically gifted,” Koth said. “We are thrilled that they have four more years of eligibility.”
Most of the team spent the summer in Midtown preparing for the season. Redshirt sophomore striker Natalie Breault said that gives the team a head start in building team chemistry.
“I think it is a great advantage for us since we’re all here over the summer; we can start the team chemistry building early and that’ll go a long way,” Breault said.
Many of the Warriors set personal goals for themselves as they look to earn the program’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in history and first since 1994.
“I want to improve my hitting and be more consistent,” said sophomore outside hitter Julia Malewicz. “I feel more comfortable entering my sophomore season since I know my teammates much more than I did coming in as a freshman.”
“I want to beat Ferris State and Grand Valley again like we did last year, and it’s my last season so I want to play well,” Richardson said.
“I want to improve the balls I set up for our hitters,” Breault said. “I learned a lot from Brittany Guldan a few years ago and I have big shoes to fill.”
The Warriors begin a week earlier than usual this season, with their first matches on Aug. 24 at the Ferris State Invitational. WSU will host the Warrior Invitational at the Matthaei Center Aug. 31 to Sept. 1.
Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics.