TC volleyball retools for another KCAC title run with roster of 16

These seniors and all-KCAC returners will anchor the Tabor College volleyball team this season (from left): Katelin Horstick, Daniele Wendland, Whitney Maple, Tena Loewen, Madison Hoover.
These seniors and all-KCAC returners will anchor the Tabor College volleyball team this season (from left): Katelin Horstick, Daniele Wendland, Whitney Maple, Tena Loewen, Madison Hoover.
Talent and commitment run deep in the Tabor College volleyball program this season.

Coach Amy Ratzlaff, entering her 16th season, has a roster of 16 women this year, all of whom will be expected to contribute.

Leading the way will be four returning starters from last year?s 25-7 season: senior defensive specialist Whitney Maple (5-6), senior middle blocker Daniele Wendland (5-9); junior middle hitter Katelin Horstick (6-2) and sophomore outside hitter Tena Loewen (5-11).

The Bluejays were regular-season co-champions last year with a 16-2 record; the season ended at the KCAC tournament with a semifinal loss to Ottawa.

?We did lose a chunk of starters, but we have girls that have played their positions now and play them well, and they?ll just be ready to step into those positions,? Ratzlaff said.

A second-team All-KCAC selection and freshman of the year last year, Loewen will help fill the void created by the departure of two All-KCAC outside hitters: first team pick Katie Kaufman and second-team selection Jessie Vogts.

Loewen was named to this year?s KCAC preseason team.

?We lost two of our three outsides, but Tena will be back and will be able to hold down a lot of that,? Ratzlaff said.

Horstick and Wendland will anchor the middle, alongside senior Madison Hoover (6-0).

?(Katelin) started with us her freshman and sophomore years, so she?ll just gain speed,? Ratzlaff said. ?Actually, I think sometimes losing a couple outsides, she?ll probably get more balls and be more of an impact player just by nature of the fact that she?s definitely a returner that attacks well.

?Dani and Madison both are senior attackers, and they have definitely put the work in this off-season to be strong.?

Maple will be a contributor on defense, with additional contributions from sophomore defenders Callie Jackson (5-3) and Taylor Standiford (5-4).

?Whitney was a starting DS for us last year, so she?s very capable,? Ratzlaff said. ?Callie Jackson played defense for us last year when Tena was hurt and did a nice job with that.

?Taylor Standiford has really been putting in the work this spring, so we?ll be fine, just need to rearrange a little.?

Ratzlaff said the offense will look different this year due to the departure of first team All-KCAC setter Holli Wolf. This year, the Bluejays will rely on two young setters: sophomore Kelsea Brittain (5-7) and freshman Megan Voth (5-6).

?When you lose your setter, your offense is going to naturally be different,? Ratzlaff said, adding that both Brittain and Voth are expected to make a big impact. ?(With) their work ethic, they?ll get the job done, but it will look different.?

Despite the changes, Ratzlaff feels positively about the direction the team is headed.

?It?s just been a really good first few practices because every player is pulling their weight, both physically and emotionally,? she said. ?They really have been 100 percent onboard with everything. I think they?re ready to make their own mark.?

Three newcomers in addition to Voth may be added to the mix: junior Jackie Horn (5-8, outside hitter); freshmen Sydney Peitz (5-10, outside hitter); and Brooke Holloway (5-10, outside and opposite hitter).

Ratzlaff said this year?s team is talented across the board.

?We really have a group of girls that can keep play going and meet goals at practice really well,? she said. ?They know how to work hard and they know how to be a team. That?s the most exciting thing to me.?

Ratzlaff also spoke well of her team?s commitment to excellence.

As a purposefully smaller squad this season, the Blue?jays will need everyone to be ready to contribute.

?I need every single one of these girls ready to step on the court, and that takes commitment from me to be able to train all of them, and so we definitely kept the squad at a manageable number,? Ratzlaff said. ?Every single player is getting better very quickly.?

KCAC projection

Tabor was picked third in the KCAC volleyball coaches? poll behind Kansas Wes?leyan and Friends.

This season, Ratzlaff said her goal is excellence, and she anticipates great team chemistry.

?I would like to see improvement in every single one of the 16 girls,? she said. ?Of course, we always have our eyes set high, but I think that excellence is our goal more than anything else.

?I think we?re going to battle every point. I don?t think this is a team that will fold at all. They?re going to stay in it and they?re going to fight for it, and so good things will happen because of that.?

Tabor started the season with a 1-3 record. Conference play is scheduled to begin Sept. 3 with a 7 p.m. contest at Southwestern. Tabor?s home opener will be Sept. 10 when Bethel comes to town for a 7 p.m. game.