With 22 players on the roster, there’s lots of competition for playing time on the Chadron State College volleyball team, Coach Jennifer Stadler said. She’s hopeful they can all stay healthy and the Eagles can make some waves in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference this fall.
Because of COVID 19, what was supposed to be the 2020 season last fall was moved to the spring of 2021. Even about half of the matches that were scheduled were cancelled because of COVID issues and Stadler said her team had a full roster available for just three of the 14 matches they played.
The Eagles finished with a 4-10 record that disappointing after going 14-12 in 2019 while winning the most matches since 2003.
The coach is confident that her team will find the win column more consistently again this fall. They open the schedule on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 3 and 4 during a classic hosted by Colorado State-Pueblo. All four matches will be non-conference affairs.
The Eagles also will enter a classic at Nebraska-Kearney with four more matches, one of them against the host Lady Lopers, the following weekend. They also will visit conference foes Adams State and New Mexico Highlands on the road Sept. 17 and 18 before their home openers against Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines take place the final Friday and Saturday of the month.
The Eagles are missing two stalwarts from the last three seasons. They are middle hitter Chandler Hageman, the Chadron native who ranks with the best all-around athletes this community has produced, and libero Karli Noble of Cheyenne, whose mother, Deb Spickelmier was an All-American middle distance runner for the Eagles, and whose father, Scott Noble, was the head track coach and an assistant football coach at CSC several years. That’s when Karli’s parents met.
Veterans on this year’s team include right side hitters Amelia Berg and Alli Keisel, defensive specialist Aracely Hernandez and setters Kincaid Strain and Breshawn Kelly.
With both Kelly and Strain available again, Stadler said the Eagles may have both on the court quite often. That occurred part-time last spring when the team was often shy of players.
“We’re leaning toward using two setters again,” Stadler said.
The coach added there’s good competition to replace Noble at libero. The contenders include Hernandez, sophomores Rylee Greiman and Skylar Sullivan and freshman Paige Boltz.
The Eagles return last year’s leading hitter, Lexi Hutado, who had 113 kills. Freshman Olivia Moten-Schnell, who is 6-foot-1, was next with 89 and Berg had 55 despite missing several sets.
Sophomore Micaiah Vrbka, a 6-footer, is among the candidates to replace Hageman in the middle, where strong blocking is essential.
“After what happened last year, when we practiced a lot but weren’t able to play as much as we had hoped, the players are hungry and want to make the most of this season,” Stadler said.
Four RMAC teams are among the top 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason poll. Colorado Mesa, which is ranked 10th nationally, is the favorite on the RMAC coaches’ poll after going 11-0 in the conference and 15-1 overall this spring.
Metro State is second in the conference poll and 11th nationally. Colorado Mines and Regis round out the top four in the RMAC vote. Stadler said it may be to the Eagles’ advantage that they won’t play any of the “Big 4” until mid-October.
Each of the teams the Eagles will encounter in Pueblo this weekend also struggled with COVID.
According to the teams’ websites, the first opponent Friday, the Mary University Marauders from Bismarck, N.D., played just two matches this spring, going 2-2, and the second foe, Minnesota-Crookston, was 0-1.
On Saturday, the Eagles are to meet Fort Hays State. The Tigers’ website said the teams in its conference did not keep stats in the spring, and any contests that took place were called scrimmages. The final opponent, Rollins College of Winter Park, Fla, played 10 matches, but didn’t win any of them.
The Eagles’ schedule follows:
Sept. 3—Mary University and Minnesota-Cookston, Sept. 4—Fort Hays State and Rollins College, all at Pueblo, Colo. Sept. 10—Nebraska-Kearney and West Texas A&M, Sept. 11—Southern Nazarene (Okla.) and Minot State, (ND), all at Kearney.
Sept. 17—at Adams State, Sept. 18—at New Mexico Highlands, Sept. 24—Black Hills State, Sept. 25—South Dakota Mines.
Oct. 1—at Fort Lewis, Oct. 2—at Western Colorado, Oct. 8—New Mexico Highlands, Oct. 9—Adams State, Oct. 15—at Metro State, Oct. 16—at Colorado Christian, Oct. 19—Colorado Mines, Oct. 22—at Regis, Oct.29—Colorado-Colorado Springs, Oct. 30—CSU-Pueblo.
Nov. 6—Westminster, Nov. 12—at South Dakota Mines, Nov. 13—at Black Hills State.