Written by Katie Morford Tuesday, 28 August 2012 13:26
A hard-hitting Tabor College volleyball squad that fell just two points shy of a conference championship last season is back in the hunt this fall for another title run.
The Bluejays return six upperclassmen and key varsity players, and have added young players to step into the big shoes left by all-conference middle hitter Tina Frick, who graduated last season.
“It’s always really healthy when the majority of leadership in play is coming from your upperclassmen who have been in the program, have honors and who know exactly what you expect,” said coach Amy Ratzlaff, who returns for her 14th season.
Returning seniors include outside hitter Abbey Burns, middle blocker Jessica Wollenburg and outside hitter Katie Vogts.
Burns is expected to play a significant role on defense and is a player who “definitely knows how to get it done when the game is on the line,” according to Ratzlaff.
Wollenburg, topping out at 6 feet, 1 inch, is strong and competitive and will anchor much of the Tabor offense.
Vogts, a very talented athlete, returns after sitting out last season due to a torn ACL.
“She will bring a total package to the floor,” Ratzlaff said. “Her servicing offense and defense will be a big stability for us. It’s nice to have a sixth-rotation player that can do it all.”
The Bluejays also boast a solid junior class, with all-conference outside hitter Jesse Vogts back on the court this season.
“She’s extremely hard to block, very competitive and we’ve seen games where she basically cleans house from the outside,” Ratzlaff said.
Amy?Jo Maphet brings strength on defense for the Jays with a speed, agility and defensive mentality that will solidify Tabor this season.
Rounding out the impressive returning roster is All-KCAC and Setter of the Year, Hollister Wolf.
“It’s so encouraging for me to return that quality of a setter,” Ratzlaff said. “We’ll be able to run our offense better, faster, stronger because of her, and we’ll have the hitters to be able to do that.”
Some of those hitters will come from the underclassmen ranks. Tabor has 16 underclassmen who will be vying for varsity spots.
Topping the list is freshman recruit Katelin Horstick, a 6-2 middle who, Ratzlaff hopes, will help fill the gap left by Frick’s departure.
“Right now she looks like she’s capable of contributing very, very quickly with a lot of power,” Ratzlaff said.
Tabor also will be looking to fill spots on the right side with the graduation of Carissa Bartel.
“There are some girls who are really unbelievable blockers that will be fun to watch from that side,” Ratzlaff added.
The Bluejays have been forced to fortify their lineup with some young blood, but Ratzlaff thinks her team is a winning combination.
“This team works very hard, they’re very coachable,” she said. “They have a great work ethic and they’ve really been unbelievable as far as team chemistry goes.”
The Jays will need all the chemistry they can muster as they face a tough, and at times unpredictable, Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference schedule.
Heading the list is last year’s regular season and conference champion, Kansas Wesleyan.
“Kansas Wesleyan will be good because they return most of their force from last year,” Ratzlaff said. “But I don’t necessarily think we are weaker than last year, so it should be a very good battle.”
Another force to be reckoned with will be a Friends University squad that gave Tabor several anxious moments last season.
“This conference always continues to surprise me,” Ratzlaff said. “We have great teams and we’re going to have to battle almost every match. So that’s exciting.”
Tabor received a second-place ranking in the coaches’ poll, followed by Friends and a tie between Ottawa and Sterling to round out the top five.
The Bluejays were slated to begin their season with the Oklahoma City University Tournament Aug. 24 and 25. They host McPherson College at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 to kick off conference play.
“We want people to come to our matches and see that we love what we do,” Ratzlaff said. “This is more than volleyball for us, and we want to love every minute of it.
“Hopefully, if we can capture that, we are going to have a great season.”