Aug. 10, 2003
NKU SEEKS TO REGAIN GLVC TITLE
Motivated Norse have plenty to prove in 2003
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Is the Great Lakes Valley Conference finally catching up with Northern Kentucky University in volleyball? Or was the 2002 season just a wake-up call, something that will give the Norse plenty of motivation this fall?
The answers to both questions will be provided later this fall.
As the University of Southern Indiana halted NKUs five-year reign as GLVC champion last November in Romeoville, Ill., it was obvious at least one program had made significant strides in competing with the Norse volleyball dynasty. While Southern Indiana celebrated its first-ever GLVC title, NKU faced the reality that its five-year streak of conference championships was over.
It was a disappointment, but we were beaten by a better team in the GLVC Tournament, NKU head coach Carlos Chia said. Southern Indiana had a lot of experience and some great players, and it showed. We had some great players, but we were not a cohesive unit because we had new players trying to learn our system, and that was the difference.
After winning the GLVC championship five straight years, maybe we took it for granted that we were going to make it six in a row. I would think our players are going to be very hungry this season.
NKU finished with a 22-10 record a year ago, and the Norse posted an 11-4 mark in the GLVC. But during the previous five years, NKU owned a 90-5 record against GLVC opponents.
The conference is getting better at the top, and when you play the better teams in the GLVC, you have to be ready or you will get beat, Chia said.
NKU still has the respect of the league coaches, as evidenced by the fact the Norse are the favorite in the GLVC preseason poll. NKU, which had its streak of five straight NCAA Division II Tournament appearances halted last season, returns all six starters and 10 letterwinners in 2003.
All-GLVC setter Sara Taylor led the nation in assists (13.82 apg) last season to become the first NKU player in history to finish No. 1 nationally in that category. Taylor also earned first team All-Great Lakes Region honors a year ago, and the senior from Louisville, Ky., is expected to contend for All-America honors in 2003.
The Norse also welcome back senior All-GLVC right-side hitter Cammi Welter, who recorded 395 kills and 83 total blocks a year ago. Welter also earned first team All-Great Lakes Region honors last season.
Sara and Cammi have been important players here all four years, and I know they want to finish their careers by winning the GLVC and getting back into the NCAA Tournament, Chia said.
Returning starters Nicole Salisbury and Kristin Koralewski give NKU the best 1-2 punch in the GLVC at outside hitter. Salisbury (398 kills, 318 digs in 2002) and Koralewski (346 kills, a team-leading 46 service aces in 2002) will also benefit from having played a season in the Norse system.
Salisbury, a senior who transferred to NKU from Wayne (Mich.) State University, earned second team All-GLVC honors last season. Koralewski, a junior who played at Northern Michigan University before transferring to NKU, earned honorable mention All-Great Lakes Region accolades.
Nicole and Kristin were new to our system last year, but they both played very well, Chia said.
Middle hitters Maggie Pugh, Kaliana Kalache and Lynne Fischesser return. Pugh, a junior from Mason, Ohio, was named second team All-GLVC last season after recording 296 kills, 75 blocks and a .342 hitting percentage. Kalache posted 233 kills and 83 blocks a year ago, while Fischesser had 38 kills and 18 blocks in limited action.
Our middle hitters have to be more aggressive at the net this season, Chia said. Kaliana and Lynne were freshmen last season, and Maggie played very little the year before, so there was hardly any experience between the three of them last year.
Junior Amber Timmons and sophomore Marcela Cunha are returning back row players for the Norse. Timmons finished with 275 digs last season, and Cunha totaled 210 digs and 19 service aces.
Sophomore right-side hitter Julie Lewis saw action in 13 matches a year ago and will provide depth. Freshman setter Andrea Lanham, named The Kentucky Post Player of the Year in 2002 while at Notre Dame Academy, should add more depth to the roster.
NKU will meet perennial NCAA Division II power University of North Dakota in the season opener on Aug. 29 at the University of North Florida Labor Day Classic at Jacksonville, Fla. Later that evening, the Norse will square off against another national power when they face the University of Tampa.
NKU will conclude the two-day tournament Aug. 30 with matches against host North Florida and 2001 NCAA Division II national champion Barry (Fla.) University.