Volleyball seniors look to lead Jacks to nationals

Nick Hartley

Nick Hartley

Fresh off a disappointing 2006 season that saw the SDSU Volleyball team underachieve at the Division One Independent Tournament and go through a huge slump at the end of the season, the 2007 team looks to start hot right out of the gate and finish that way.

“One thing they (the team) have been talking about is making sure they start strong and finish strong,” said sixth-year head coach Andrew Palileo.

The Jacks look to use senior leadership to land in the top four of the Summit League regular league standings. A top four placement means advancement to the Summit League tournament championships in Fort Wayne, Ind. If the Jacks place first at Fort Wayne, then they will be able to play for the Division One National Championships. Through an NCAA rule, the volleyball team will be the only female Jackrabbit sport to be eligible for Division One National Championships; the other teams must wait until the 2008-2009 season.

So far so good for the Jacks, who are on of a four-game winning streak, beating Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas Pan-America, Sam Houston State and Lamar of Beaumont, Texas. The Jacks swept matches against Louisiana-Lafayette, and Texas-Pan-America. Sam Houston State and Lamar only managed to force a fourth game against the Jackrabbit spikers. The Jackrabbits overall are 6-3, being 1-0 at home beating Montana, and are 3-2 in tournament play.

Leadership this season will come from many players, but senior outside hitter Kristina Martin will be the main leader for the lady Jacks. Martin was on the 2005 and 2006 all-independent first teams. Starting in 2007, Martin needs only 382 kills on the season to pass Rose Ebnet (1,724) for the all-time kills record at SDSU. In 2006, Martin had 446 total kills on the season. Fellow senior Amy Anderson returns to a middle hitter position, packed full of experience this fall. Anderson leads the team in total games played, and is second on the team with 104 kills on the 2007 season.

Spunky senior libero Samantha Pearson brings energy to the team and is on pace to shatter the career digs record at SDSU, Pearson only needs 225 more digs to break the all time record at SDSU. Pearson already has 180 digs on the season, with 21 games still on the schedule. The Summit League named Pearson defensive player of the week in the first full week of action.

Senior Mackenzie Osadchuk and and junior Emily Rooney also returns this year, giving the Jacks experience in the middle that has been missing in the past. Osadchuk and Rooney round out the class of 2004. Rooney opted to red-shirt her freshmen year, gaining experience while watching her fellow classmates.

Coach Palileo is looking forward to working with this group of seniors, who were all a part of the class of 2004, a class that saw many changes over their years playing for SDSU.

“I told the class of 2004, best case scenario would be that your senior year we win the conference championships and compete for a national championship,” Palileo said, “and there is no better group that I want that for.”

Also contributing for the Jacks will be Mackenzie Angner, who worked very hard this off-season to earn a starting outside hitter opposite Martin. The energetic junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, has been a pleasant surprise for the Jacks as she has led the Jacks in total kills (131) and aces (13) so far.

Sophomore Stacey Wernert and juniors Rachel Dahl and Justine Olsen return to the court after seeing much playing time last year in the defensive specialist position. Wernert, Dahl and Olsen look to build unity with the new incoming freshmen who are chalked full of talent.

Freshman Annie Adams, who may be the most hyped recruit, is a force to reckon with. Her 6’3″ frame along with a 30-inch vertical will be scary for opponents.

Hawaiian native Melia Iwamoto could be the face for Jackrabbit volleyball for years to come. Iwamoto has come along very nicely for the Jacks in the first match of her college career. She had game-high 39 assists in the first match of the season against Northern Colorado. Iwamoto won the starting spot based on better adaptation to the college game.

Iwamoto and Peters, along with fellow freshmen Jenna Rae Sitton and Ashley Kathol, all received playing time in the young 2007 season. The freshmen as a core were impressive in their first year of collegiate experience. “For being freshman, I think they did a pretty good job,” said Palileo.

Matches against Oral Roberts on Nov. 10 will be a key game to circle. IPFW (Sept. 15) and rival North Dakota State University (Sept.16) on consecutive nights could give the fans the best match-ups of the year.

Chemistry is already there for the team, and if the Jacks can continue on the hot streak, fans could have a lot to look forward to.

“This year will be an exciting year because of our opportunity to compete in the conference tournament, and if successful, earn an NCAA Tournament birth,” said Palileo.

#1.883357:2473770911.jpg:volleyball.jpg:Emily Rooney and Kristina Martin returned a smash by an opponent.:Eric Landwehr/University Relations#1.883356:721042760.jpg:volleyball.group.jpg:The Jackrabbit volleyball team prepares to battle against the Montana State University on August 27.:Eric Landwehr/University Relations