If the Marshall volleyball team is to contend for the Capitol South Conference title in 2019, their experience will play a huge role.
Though the Cardinals return the vast majority of their 2018 roster, they do have a significant hole to fill left by the departed Bailey Neuberger; Neuberger was a first-team all-state player last year, and is now playing collegiately at Southern Illinois University. Apart from Neuberger and fellow graduate Caitlin Brewer, the Cardinals return all of their remaining players, making Marshall among the most experienced teams in the Capitol South.
“It’s extremely beneficial,” Marshall’s head coach Christina Schmitz – entering her sixth year leading the Cardinals – said of having such an experienced group. “I’m able to focus more on game play during practices. The girls all seem to be playing cohesively from the get go rather than figure out positions and what it’s like to play with one another.”
A pair of juniors who earned all-conference recognition last season will lead the way in 2019: Anna Lutz and Kiana Hellenbrand.
“Kiana was named one of our captains this year so she will be an on-court leader for this team…” said Schmitz. “Anna will be a vocal leader with her fun personality. Both Kiana and Anna bring valuable experience from last year and also bring their competitive edge. Both will be threats to opposing teams.”
Lutz and Hellenbrand will look to junior setters Skyla Michalak and Trinity Flint for quality assists throughout the year. Senior libero Aubrie Kappes will be a major contributor defensively; she led the team in both digs and serve receptions last year, and will be crucial once again to beginning Marshall’s possessions positively.
Waterloo – last year’s champion – and Wisconsin Heights have been atop the Capitol South for the past decade. Both return strong teams in 2019, but Marshall’s experience gives them a fighter’s chance to compete in a tough Capitol South race.
“We need to play smart; control our first contacts and place the ball where they have open spots…” Schmitz said of how her team can compete with Waterloo and Wisconsin Heights. “I think we will be very competitive. However, the Capitol South Conference has a lot of very good, competitive teams, so it will be interesting in how the season plays out.”
Marshall opened its season with a big test against Wisconsin Heights on Aug. 29.
The Cardinals ultimately fell in straight sets: 25-14, 25-20, 25-23. Lutz led the team in kills with six, while Michalak was tops in assists with nine and Izzy Llontop had eight digs.
“Wisconsin Heights has a good returning crew and they kept the pressure on us,” said Schmitz. “We got better as each game went on however just fell short at the end. Lots of things we can bring back to work on in practice to gear up for our next game.”
The Cardinals returned home the following Tuesday against Cambridge, the results of which were not available for this week’s edition. Marshall will hit the road for their first away match at New Glarus today, followed by a tournament at Milwaukee Lutheran on Saturday.