Golden Grizzlies Look to Third Season as Key to Success
|Head Coach Ed Tolentino|
The third time is a charm. At least that is what is expected of the 2001 Oakland University volleyball team. The Golden Grizzlies are playing in their third season of Mid-Continent Conference and NCAA Division I volleyball and expect that this year will be the culmination of two years of hard work and dedication and that this season will end with higher results.
"Our main goal this year is to continue to build the OU volleyball program into a solid Division I volleyball program," third year head coach Ed Tolentino said. "Our immediate goal is to become a Mid-Con tourney team and to have a better conference standing than we have in the past. We have improved the past two years, but I expect much more in our third year of Division I play."
Last season the Golden Grizzlies won three conference matches and in 1999 OU won two. That marks progress, but this year (2001) is year three and standards have been set much higher.
"We’ve almost been at the bottom of the Mid-Con the past two years and we know that we are able to compete at least in the top third. That is what we expect in 2001," Tolentino said.
In order for goals to come to fruition for the OU volleyball program, the recruiting class will need to develop quickly. This year’s team is comprised of four freshmen, four sophomores and four seniors.
"We have good senior leadership, but we also have a lot of underclassmen," Tolentino said. "For our team to be successful this season, we have to have the younger players develop and get accustomed to the college game quickly. The whole team needs to develop together to reach that pinnacle of success that we are striving for."
The Golden Grizzlies also need to instill confidence in themselves early in the year. Oakland found itself not being able to close the game last season and needs to overcome that obstacle this year.
"Last year we got some early wins over Eastern Michigan and Valparaiso, but that attitude has to continue throughout the entire season," Tolentino said. "We need to play consistent volleyall and have the fire in us that says that the last thing we want to do is lose. Last year we were taking losses upon losses because we didn’t believe that we could win."
Confidence is a key word in the OU attack in 2001. In order for the Golden Grizzlies to obtain the goals they set forth, each member of the team must be confident in their play and the play of the team as a whole.
The 2001 schedule includes the 12 Mid-Continent Conference matches, two tournaments, a three-match trip to California and contests against Big Ten and Mid-American Conference opponents.
"We’ve set our schedule with a great deal of difficulty in it so that we can prepare ourselves for the Mid-Con race," Tolentino said. "We are playing teams with higher power ratings in order to continue on out program’s improvement."
The Golden Grizzlies open the season in Moon Township, Pennsylvania at the Robert Morris Invitational August 31-September 1. OU will face Delaware State, Robert Morris and Rider while at RMC. Oakland will then travel to its second tournament of the year at Cleveland State. OU will play Towson, Cleveland State, Niagara and Canisius while in Cleveland, Ohio September 7-8.
The remainder of the non-conference schedule pits Oakland against MAC opponents Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Bowling Green and Toledo, against Big Ten opponent Michigan and versus Penn, UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton in California September 14-15.
"We haven’t gone on a trip like this since our trip to Florida a few years back," Tolentino said. It was time for us to spread our wings a little bit and the west coast is a great place to get exposure to volleyball. Oakland’s exposure to the west side of the country will help develop our program."
Anchoring the outside hitter position this season will be senior Cloretta Porter (Battle Creek/St. Phillips HS). She played in 97 games last season and was third on the team with 253 kills and she collected 52 blocks.
"Clo is a solid hitter and she can put the ball down over a block," Tolentino said. "She’ll be a vital senior this year and a key to our success."
Also vying for time at outside hitter will be sophomores Cortney Varterasian (Ypsilanti/Ypsilanti HS) and senior Cheryl Briddell (Marysville, Illinois/Collinsville HS). Varterasian saw action in 66 games for the Golden Grizzlies last season and recorded 46 kills, 39 digs and 19 blocks. Briddell is coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined her for the majority of the season last year. She played in nine contests and collected 34 digs, three service aces and two kills.
"Cortney is young, but she showed a lot of promise and talent last year and in the spring," Tolentino said. "Cheryl is coming off her injury, but if she can remain healthy, she may play an important role on the front row and definitely back row this year."
The Golden Grizzlies middle is primarily manned by senior Tess Pierce (Yorkville, Illinois/Yorkville HS). Pierce played in 93 games for the Golden Grizzlies in an injury shortened season (broken hand). She finished the season fifth in the Mid-Con with .286 hitting percentage and was ninth in the conference with her 3.16 kills per game. Pierce led the team with 294 kills and 93 blocks.
"Tess is our only true middle," Tolentino said. "I have been trying to recruit players that are athletic enough to play middle and other positions, so we will have depth there."
Trippett played in 96 games last season and recorded 300 kills, 98 digs and 91 blocks. She was 10th in the Mid-Con with a 3.14 kills per game and was ninth in the conference with .9 blocks per game. Miller was a four-year letterwinner in volleyball at Concord High School and was an all-conference, all-region and all-state performer. CHS finished ninth in the state her senior year. Conger also earned four varsity letters in volleyball and was named first team all-state as a senior. Marysville High School won the Michigan state championship in all four of her years and recorded an amazing 237-2 record.
"With her athletic ability, Carmen is also a prospect for the middle," Tolentino said. "We will also try to work Sara Miller and Karen Conger into the role."
The right side will see three players vying for playing time – Trippett, sophomore Kaili Klieman (St. Clair/St. Clair HS) and Conger. Klieman appeared in 64 games for OU in her first year and recorded 46 kills, 14 digs and 25 blocks.
Freshman Kim Cook (Troy/Notre Dame Prep), sophomores Lauren Bramos (Grosse Pointe/North HS) and Beth Ann Rourk (Woodhaven/Woodhaven HS) and Briddell will all battle for starting positions in the back row.
Bramos saw action in 28 games last season and tallied 26 digs, six service aces and two kills. Rourk played in 70 games for OU in her first year and recorded 105 digs, 11 kills and eight service aces.
"Our defensive game will be strong with the lineup we have to put in the back row," Tolentino said. "Bramos and Rourk are returning players and Cook is very strong defensively."
Due to the loss of both setters from last year, the setting spot poses one question mark for the Golden Grizzlies and Tolentino. Freshman Rebecca Moller (Columbiaville/Lakeville Memorial HS) has the early nod and will be challenged by converted position players in the pre-season.
The Golden Grizzlies have what it takes to continue the strides in making a name for Oakland University in the volleyball world. If the old saying holds true for OU than this is the year ... the third year is a charm ... and Oakland volleyball will achieve the goals it has set before itself.