Tough Season Has Silver Lining for Oakland

A season that started with an encouraging performance in its first weekend of play got away from Oakland as the team suffered a number of setbacks that resulted in a campaign that saw the Golden Grizzlies finish at only 1-25. A tough schedule and a roster of young players that had little experience both had major impacts on Oaklandís results.

Oakland started the season with just one senior, Jenny Dodson (Burton, Mich.), and only three other players that had seen action for the Golden Grizzlies prior to 2006. All three of those were sophomores and combined with Dodson, who had been on the team just one year after transferring to OU, gave Oakland just four seasons of experience to start the season with. By the time the season was over, the Golden Grizzlies had played seven players that had no Division I experience prior to the season.

Sophomore Leah Dupie led Oakland with a career-high 231 kills in 2006.

Starting play at the West Virginia Classic, Oakland opened with the host Mountaineers. The Golden Grizzlies battled WVU all the way, twice coming back from a game down to tie the match and send it to a deciding fifth game. Oakland held a 9-7 lead in that fifth game, only to see West Virginia come back to take the deciding game by a 15-12 score. While OU came away winless at the Classic, the Golden Grizzlies still played close matches against strong teams from Indiana and Akron.

One of Oaklandís new faces that emerged in West Virginia was that of freshman Amanda Morley (Holland, Mich.). The left-handed hitter racked up 15 kills against West Virginia, a mark that would prove to be her season-high, finishing the tournament with 23 kills and 15 blocks as she immediately stepped in to the OU lineup and provided a steady option for the Golden Grizzly attack.

Hosting its own tournament the next weekend, Oakland faced two of the top teams in the region in Cleveland State and Bowling Green. The Golden Grizzlies fell to both of those squads in three, and also lost a hard-fought match to Indiana State in four games despite 15 kills from Leah Dupuie (Leonard, Mich.).

One of OUís experienced players, Dupuie wound up being the top offensive threat for the Golden Grizzlies during the season, putting away 231 kills and accounting for 266 points over the course of the season. She also was among the team leaders in blocks with 49.

Unfortunately for Oakland the lack of experience and tough schedule caught up with the team early, and it would be more than halfway through the season before the Golden Grizzlies put one in the victory column. That came against former Mid-Con member Chicago State as OU took a three-game match from the Cougars at home. Junior Monica Frechen (Fowler, Mich.) had 15 kills vs. just one error in the match as Oakland hit .270 as a team and rolled to the victory.

Sophomore Lauren Duquette moved onto OU's career leader's list in digs after leading the Golden Grizzlies for a second season with 305.

Another of the new faces on the Oakland roster, Frechen proved to be one of the most consistent players in the Golden Grizzly lineup over the course of the season. She led the team in blocks and hitting percentage and was second in kills and points. Averaging nearly a block a game, she finished eighth in the Mid-Con in that category.

In the nine remaining matches of the 2006 season Oakland played a pair of five-game matches but was unable to chalk up another win. One of those matches was at Centenary where OU placed four players in double figures in kills and digs and served up 17 aces in a close match with the Ladies. Sophomores Stephanie Parkin (Clarkston, Mich.) and Lauren Duquette (Clinton Twp., Mich.) both had strong efforts for Oakland, with Parkin leading the team with 16 kills and five aces while Duquette recorded 26 digs and five aces.

Parkin was one of Oaklandís top all-around players and had her name among the team leaders in every category when all was said and done, showing improvement across the board from her freshman season. Duquette continued her strong play and again ranked as one of the Mid-Conís top defensive players, leading the team and finishing seventh in the league in digs.

Other first-year players who stepped in and provided some solid play for Oakland were freshmen Nikki Pawson (Blissfield, Mich.) and Alex Darin (Yale, Mich.). Darin took over as the teamís starting setter and finished with 791 assists, fifth in the Mid-Con and the fifth-highest total in the Division I history of the program. Pawson provided another option from her hitter position, finishing among the team leaders in kills, aces and blocks in her first season of action.

Dodson teamed with Duquette to provide Oakland with a solid defensive combination, finishing her two-year stay at OU with career highs in digs (216) and aces (20). Freshman Hallie Beattie (Bowling Green, Ohio) also proved to be a valuable defensive player for the Golden Grizzlies, sharing the team lead in aces (22) and finishing among the leaders in digs.

While the season was not as successful and the team would have liked in terms of wins and losses, it still proved to be a successful one for the team as it gained some much needed experience for the program. With the loss of just one senior, Oaklandís volleyball team took a step forward in 2006 as nearly all of its young players gained their first experience in Oakland uniforms and set a foundation for the future. That will provide a valuable building block for the team in the 2007 season that it did not have in 2006 as it looks to rebound back into contention next season.

Oakland University 2005. All rights reserved.

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