Oakland Sets Foundation For Future Success In 2003

Oaklandís volleyball team continued to show signs of improvement in the 2003 season as the Golden Grizzlies continue to build the program towards the goal of winning a Mid-Continent Conference championship. While the 2003 team finished with just a 6-21 overall record and a 5-9 mark in conference play, both marks were an improvement from the year before. In fact, OUís conference record was its best since the program changed to Division I and joined the Mid-Con and had the team just one game out of the final Mid-Con tournament slot.

In her first season at Oakland, Heather Lippert led the Golden Grizzlies in hitting percentage and blocks.

Oakland had to make one adjustment right away at the start of the season, one to new head coach Dave Schmidlin. After opening the season with a loss at Eastern Michigan, the Golden Grizzlies picked up their first win of the season at the Cleveland State Invitational, downing St. Francis (Pa.) in four games as four OU players scored at least 13 points in the match, led by 13.5 from transfer Heather Lippert. Oakland dropped its other two matches over the weekend, but senior Patti Hunter came up with all-tournament honors for OU after hitting .255 and serving six aces in the three matches. 

Stephanie Linz had an strong first season with Oakland, finishing among the team leaders in hitting, kills and aces.

A combination of youth, working in two new transfer players and learning Schmidlinís new system led to some struggles early in the season for the Golden Grizzlies. After getting the first win of the season OU lost its next eight matches. Oakland broke out of its slump with a three-game win at conference newcomer Centenary. Stephanie Linz, OUís other transfer for the 2003 season, had a career night against the Ladies, setting a new school Division I record with 20 kills and hitting .545 to lead OU to the win. Setter Becca Moller was also in on the record setting that night, establishing a new mark for aces in a three-game match with seven.

Returning home Oakland did it again, downing Western Illinois in five games as four players recorded 10 or more kills, led by 16 from Hunter who also had nine blocks against the Westerwinds.

After the first half of the conference season the Golden Grizzlies started to become more comfortable with their new style of play, and while the team was not able to record consecutive wins the rest of the way, its improved play led to three more conference wins over the rest of the season. Included in those wins was a thrilling five-game upset of IUPUI, the third-place team in the Mid-Con. 

At the end of the season Oaklandís senior class capped off some fine careers with each of the three listed among the team leaders multiple categories. Cortney Varterasian, Beth Ann Rourk and Lauren Bramos each finished among the team leaders in several categories and placed their names among the schoolís all-time Division I leaders in several categories as well.

Seniors Beth Ann Rourk (3), Lauren Bramos (12) and Cortney Varterasian (l) finished their careers 1-2-3 in digs in the OU Division I record book.

Oaklandís two newcomers, Lippert and Linz, certainly added instant help to the team over the season, with the two finishing 1-2 in hitting percentage. Lippert also led the team in blocks (84), while Linz recorded over 200 kills and shared the squad lead with Moller with 29 aces, finishing sixth in the Mid-Con in aces per game. Sara Miller led the team with 211 kills and was second with 230.5 points for the season.

Defensively it was Bramos who led the team with 231 digs, teaming with Katie Lozier to account for over one-third of the teamís digs.

With five of the six top point scorers eligible to return for the 2004 season, Oakland has established the foundation that it can build on to continue to move towards challenging for a Mid-Continent Conference title.

Oakland University 2003. All rights reserved.

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