Tough Start Sets the Tone for 2004 Season

Oaklandís head volleyball coach Dave Schmidlin and his team came into 2004 with high hopes. The Golden Grizzlies had just come off a season in which they fell just short of qualifying for the Mid-Continent Conference tournament, posting their best record in conference play since entering the league. But the loss of four seniors, the teamís leader in points also leaving the squad and an injury left the Golden Grizzlies with just nine players in uniform to begin the season with. The result was that the squad struggled to get off the ground against a tough non-conference schedule and finished 5-24 overall with a 3-11 mark in the Mid-Con. 

Oakland opened up the season with five straight losses, but bounced back for a huge victory at home against Central Michigan on September 14th, the first ever for OU against the Chippewas in 17 tries. The contest not only gave Oakland its first win of the season, it showcased the skills of one of the teamís freshman players. Chelsea Licavoli (Clinton Township, Mich.) recorded 18 kills to lead all players in just her sixth game as a Golden Grizzly. Coming out of high school with the reputation as a dangerous server, she quickly proved to be a strong server at the collegiate level as well, racking up a Division I school record of 42 aces during the year, finishing second in the conference in that category. Midway through the season she also found herself as the teamís starting libero and went on to finish second on the team in digs with 215. Licavoli was recognized by the Mid-Con for her solid season by being named to the leagueís all-freshman squad, the second OU player to earn that honor.

Junior Heather Lippert (Walled Lake, Mich.) got OU going in the right direction to kick off conference play, leading the team with 20 kills at home against Centenary in a 3-1 Oakland victory. Lippert proved to be a force to be reckoned with in league play from her middle hitter position and wound up leading the team in kills, blocks, and points. She was second in the Mid-Con with 1.25 blocks per game, and her 125 total blocks set a new school record for the 30-point scoring system. Lippert was rewarded by being named second-team all conference.

After going through a stretch of nine matches in which it only won two games, Oakland started to show some progress during the second half of the conference season, playing teams closer than it did the first time around and seeing five of the final seven outings go at least four games. The Golden Grizzlies completed the sweep of Centenary with a 3-0 win on the road and six days later they knocked off Western Illinois at home in five games in an exciting five-game affair. Lippert posted another great outing against the Westerwinds, pounding out 26 kills to set a Division I school record, while senior Karen Conger (Marysville, Mich.) chipped in with 12 kills and 13 digs. Conger finished the season third on the team in kills per game with 1.76 and fourth in digs with 211. Lippert, who totaled 26 blocks in three matches that week, was named the Mid-Con Defensive Player of the Week for November 1st for her efforts. 

Seniors Sara Miller (Jackson, Mich.), Katie Lozier (Clinton Township, Mich.), Conger played the final game of their successful careers at home against Valparaiso on November 12th.  Miller had five kills in the match, while Lozier recorded seven digs against the eventual conference champions.  Miller finished the season second on the team in kills and points while Lozier led the Golden Grizzlies with 262 digs.

Although the 2004 wasnít as successful as Schmidlin and the team would have liked, the team did lay more of the foundation that will be needed for success in the future. Next season Oakland will have a solid core group of players will returning with Lippert, Becca Moller (Columbiaville, Mich.), Erin Palmer (Centerville, Mich.), and Whitney Lane (East Kentwood, Mich.) will all bring experience to the team as seniors in 2005. Along with the Golden Grizzliesí young improving players such as Licavoli and freshman Kellie Kunkel (Chesterfield, Mich.), as well as a talented incoming freshman class, Oakland should have the tools in place to take the next step up the Mid-Con ladder towards a conference tournament berth in 2005.

Oakland University 2004. All rights reserved.

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