Category Archives: Volleyball

Volleyball struggles during a four game losing streak

October 26, 2017

The Wheaton Volleyball team continues to struggle to find victories as their season gets closer to the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Championship Tournament.

While Wheaton students returned to the college before classes resumed on Thursday, Oct. 19, the volleyball team traveled to Illinois Wesleyan University on Wednesday, Oct. 18 for a CCIW matchup. The Thunder lost three straight sets to the IWU Titans 25-18, 25-16 and 25-18. IWU outdid Wheaton in digs 41-32, aces 6-1, kills 54-37, assists 52-36 and blocks 5-0. Wheaton senior Katie Rohrer had 14 kills credited to her, a season high for her, and led her team offensively. IWU has an overall season record of 18-6.

Then the Thunder traveled to Dubuque, Iowa for the University of Dubuque Quad Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 21. First Wheaton faced the hosting team from the University of Dubuque. The Thunder lost in three sets with 25-14, 25-17 and 25-16. Rohrer and sophomore Madeline Moore led the teams in kills with six each, but junior Jessica Bosse dominated Wheaton’s dig count with 13. However, the Thunder were outmatched on all levels against Dubuque who was able to get 45 kills, eight aces, seven blocks, 42 assists and 53 digs. Dubuque has an overall season record of 26-2.

After losing to Dubuque, Wheaton faced Loras College in a much closer matchup. Wheaton lost after three sets again, but each individual set was more evenly matched. The Thunder lost the first set 25-22, the second 25-20 and the third 25-20. All levels of the game were nearly even, and Wheaton was able to execute more digs than Loras throughout the game. A combination of a good kill performance by Moore and Rohrer, 10 and eight kills respectively, and Bosse’s 21 digs kept the Thunder close to Loras. Loras College has an overall record of 11-15.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the Wheaton Thunder lost to Augustana 3-1. The Thunder rolled onto the court in the first set with energy and were able to win 25-19, but with each set after that Augustana pulled away, winning the second set 25-20, the third set 25-15 and the fourth set 25-10. Bosse once again had a big dig performance with 29 digs, and Moore, sophomore Ellie Brown and Rohrer led Wheaton in kills with nine, six and six respectively.

Despite high hopes for change at the beginning of the season, the Wheaton Volleyball team has only one game left against Carthage College on Halloween at 7 p.m. at King Arena on campus, and will end their season either 5-20 or 4-21. With a conference record of 1-6 before Tuesday’s upcoming game against the Lady Reds, Wheaton might face another early elimination from the CCIW Tournament.

Volleyball struggles against talented CCIW teams

September 28, 2017

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Wheaton College Volleyball team competed in the CCIW/WIAC Crossover Tournament. The CCIW/WIAC conference was founded in 1946 and has hosted tournaments for nine Division III colleges, including Wheaton College, since. With spirits high from a 3-0 win against Lake Forest on Sept. 19, Wheaton traveled to Naperville, Ill. to play UW La Crosse in hopes of evening their 2-3 record. However, even with sophomore Madeline Moore leading Wheaton with six kills, the Thunder fell short, losing to the Eagles 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-21). Moore was assisted with five kills from Audrey Irwin and four kills from Katie Rohrer.

““In our match against lacrosse it felt like there was as an all around lack of focus and discipline,” Moore said. “They were a very beatable team, but we simply did not become coherent in a way that was effective enough to play to our full potential and take the match.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Wheaton volleyball played No. 12 ranked Millikin University. It was Wheaton’s first home game of the season and new coach, Stephanie Schmidt’s, first home game as head coach. “We have been looking forward to this match since we moved in on August 17,” Schmidt said. “It’s hard playing on the road and we’ve been our own cheerleaders so it’s nice having those voices behind us.” However, Wheaton lost to Big Blue 3-0.

“Millikin is a good team and we knew that going into the game,” Moore said. “They are 12th in the nation. I think our second set that ended 25 Millikin, 21 Wheaton showed us that we are capable of playing with the best.”

In the first matchup, Millikan won 25-13 with 20 kills in the set. Wheaton put up a fight in the second set, but Big Blue escaped with a victory 25-21. Millikan won the third set 25-16. For Millikan, Erin Syversen led the Big Blue with 15 kills along with Rose Syversen who had 21 assists. For Wheaton, Audrey Irwin led the Thunder with seven kills and Kelly Thornton aided Wheaton with 10 assists.

“Everyone on our team has so much talent, we just need to continue to improve in consistent chemistry,” Moore said. “Additionally, we need to continue to be more consistent in playing to our standard.”

Although Wheaton lost, Schmidt was in high hopes for the coming season. “We certainly appreciate it and we’re excited to come out later this week and host another one [game] and have a little better result.”

“Playing at home was so much fun,” Moore said. “It’s always so special to have a big group of fans you know.”

Wheaton returns to action on Thursday, Sept. 28 at University of Chicago at 6:00 p.m. The University of Chicago volleyball team is ranked 25th in the country; Wheaton is unranked.

The importance of camaraderie

The volleyball season is underway at Wheaton College and according to Head Coach Stephanie Schmidt, the team “has a lot of depth and can compete against anybody.” This past weekend, the Thunder went down 0-2 early on in their first match against Kalamazoo College. They proceeded to storm their way back and win the match in five sets. “Not only was that a fun start to the season, but it was great to see how resilient this team is and [to] see their fighting spirit,” says Schmidt. According to Schmidt, “resilience” was a theme throughout the entire weekend. She says that they have a “fast and scrappy group that loves to play volleyball and [loves] each other.” As far as strategy this season, Schmidt says that they are “spreading out their offense a little more this year.” For that reason she thinks that their games will be “very high energy” and that “people will really enjoy watching them play.”

Schmidt is not only proud of her team on the court, but she is also very encouraged by both old and new traditions that make this year’s team particularly unique. One of the team’s yearly traditions for bonding is “costume bowling.” This is a competition where each class on the team creates a costume. They all put on their respective class costumes and Schmidt chooses the best one. Afterwards, they all go bowling in their costumes; this year, the juniors won the costume contest. A newly-formed tradition for the team this year is a small group Bible study. The team is divided into three small groups that meet weekly.

Stephanie Schmidt: Volleyball Head Coach

August 31, 2017

How long have you been coaching?

I began coaching for the first time in 2006, so it’s been 11 years overall, but I started in my first full-time college role a little more than five years ago. This will be my fifth season as a Division III head coach.

What is the most important part of your job?

I love coaching at this level so much because of the opportunity to mentor young women. College (and being a collegiate athlete) shaped much of who I am, so I relish the chance to speak into the lives of the athletes I coach. On a more practical level, the most important part of the collegiate coaching profession is probably recruiting – finding the right student-athletes to add to our culture and help push our team to the next level.

Why were you interested in working at Wheaton?

This institution is so committed to helping students pursue the Lord’s call on their lives. I love that we can call students to excel spiritually, academically, athletically, socially, etc. without compromising our mission to further the Kingdom. I love working in Division III volleyball at a Christian institution. So as far as athletics goes, this is a dream job.

When did you decide to become a coach?

I’m not sure that I “decided” as much as I just followed the doors God was opening and felt like this was what I was supposed to do. I really loved coaching when I first started but didn’t know it could or would become a full-time career. Once I started coaching at the college level I realized that this was a “calling” – something I loved AND that allowed me to utilize the strengths God has given me.

Who is a different (professional, college, high school or childhood) coach you look(ed) up to?

My dad was a coach when I was young, which is how I got into volleyball in the first place, and he coached me through much of middle school and junior high. I have always admired his coaching style – very athlete-centered and selfless, and always patient and joyful. I also have enjoyed watching and learning from Hugh McCutcheon, who was an Olympic coach and now coaches at the University of Minnesota. I borrow a lot of what I do (and why I do it) from him.

Why do you thinking coaching is important to the body of Christ?

The young women I coach are wired the same way – they love to play this sport, and they want to excel at it, and they’re trying to figure out what it looks like to want to crush their opponents and love the Lord at the same time. I get to teach them about volleyball, and life, and following Christ. So I think coaching is important to the body of Christ because student-athletes are learning to use their gifts to honor the Lord, and coaches at a place like Wheaton have the chance to have a pastoral role in students’ lives.

What is one word that you would use to describe yourself? Passionate

A season of changes

With a good amount of talent and fresh confidence, the Wheaton volleyball team has big aspirations for the 2017 season.

Believing that “confidence is key in any sport,” junior libero Jess Bosse thinks “with a confidence boost from some new positive changes we can definitely reach our max potential.”

One of those changes is the addition of Head Coach Stephanie Schmidt, who was hired by the Wheaton Athletics Department in March after Former Head Coach Brittany Smith resigned in November of last year, according to the Wheaton Athletics website. Schmidt previously coached the North Central (Minn.) volleyball team for five years.

“Coach Schmidt is an amazing coach who brings so much passion and knowledge about the game to our team,” sophomore outside hitter Madeline Moore said about the changing aspects of the upcoming season.

“Wheaton volleyball has been growing progressively stronger and more competitive in recent years, and our desire is to continue that trend,” Schmidt said.

“I think we could continue to improve both focus and consistency all around. Every athlete has “good days” and “bad days,” but I think we could improve on looking strong and focused every single game,” Moore said. There are 25 scheduled games for the 2017 season, and the team will face tough competition.

“Our vision is to become a top-25 team; to finish with a better overall record and a better conference record than last year; and to play well against our non-conference opponents,” Schmidt said. Two CCIW teams were given top-25 preseason rankings: Millikin, the defending CCIW Conference Champions, at 17th and Elmhurst at 21st, according to Schmidt.

“Elmhurst will be our toughest competition this season. The past two seasons that I have been on the court, this team is always hungry for the win,” Bosse said. According to Elmhurst College’s Athletic website, the Thunder lost to Elmhurst last year 3-1 during the regular season. The volleyball team will play Elmhurst on Oct. 16, and will meet them again in the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Championship tournament at the end of the season.

Bosse hopes the team can “give them a run for their money,” and Moore believes that both Elmhurst and Millikin will be strong CCIW teams.

According to sophomore middle hitter Ellie Brown, three freshman recruits may add new potential to the team. Moore said that she is looking forward to training and playing with the new teammates, but also mentioned that the all-around caliber of play varied game-to-game last season.

Thunder volleyball will need the freshmen and underclassmen to fill in some new gaps. “We lost some strong components to our offense, so we need some new point-scorers to step up,” Coach Schmidt said, “I want us to be a smarter team with our offensive choices.” Both Coach Schmidt and Moore reiterated the importance of better blocking as well.

The Wheaton Volleyball season will open their season with the Bluffton University Sommer Spiketacular with four matches against Kalamazoo College, Heidelberg University, Bluffton University, and Hanover College in Bluffton, Ohio on Friday, Sept. 1.

Thunder prepare for postseason

The Wheaton Thunder women’s volleyball team celebrated two accomplishments this week. First, head coach Brittany Smith — who has been coaching for 12 years — reached a career milestone: her 300th victory at Friday’s game. Second, sophomore Jess Bosse was named CCIW’s Defensive Player of the Week, which was announced Tuesday night. Smith’s seasoned coaching experience and players’ excellent skills brought the Thunder to this point in the season. But it was their cohesive team spirit that propelled them to two victories this week.

The Thunder started out strong in the first game, keeping the pressure at the net with 14 kills, but North Central caught up in the second game, beating back the Thunder’s defense with 15 kills which left the teams tied 1-1. The Thunder came back in the third game, playing relentlessly until they won 27-25, ending with 51 attempts at the net and 13 kills. The team finished off strong in the fourth game, claiming a 3-1 victory over North Central. The team was led by Bosse, who landed 18 digs and three serving aces, senior Shelby Knowles, who fired off 19 kills and swooped in with 17 digs, and senior Ashley Torok, who contributed 31 assists.

After their victory, the women’s volleyball team traveled to Kenosha, Wisc. to play Carthage College, which would decide their seed placement in the CCIW Tournament. The Thunder was led by Knowles at the net with 20 kills and freshman Meghan Lacey who also kept the pressure on the net with 11 decisive kills.

“Our outside hitters are really solid and really dynamic so they can basically hit the ball no matter where you set it,” said senior Sara Reiskytl.

Four close games tied the score up and the Thunder prepared to enter into a fifth game. Carthage grasped a 9-5 lead early the game and still held onto their lead by the time Wheaton took their second and final time-out, leaving the score 11-7. But the Thunder struck back hard, literally, with kill after kill delivered by junior Katie Rohrer, Knowles and freshman Madeline Moore until the women’s volleyball team claimed a hard-fought victory.

“I love those matches that go to five sets, but I also hate them,” Reiskytl explained. “It’s so fun to see our team push through and get those really crucial wins.”

The Wheaton women’s volleyball team, on a six-game win streak, is now the third seed in the CCIW tournament. On Friday, the team will face Elmhurst for the first game of the CCIW tournament.

Volleyball recap

After one week and six away games, one word encompasses the theme of the beginning of the season for Wheaton’s volleyball team: travel.

This past weekend, the team traveled to Thousand Oaks, Calif. to compete in Cal Lutheran’s “Posada Royale Invitational” against numerous teams, including one of the nation’s highest-ranked teams.

In the first match of the invitational last Friday, the team faced Ohio Wesleyan. The Battling Bishops jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The Thunder lost all three sets by scores of 25-19, 25-19 and 25-23. Senior outside hitter Shelby Knowles collected 13 kills and nine digs for the Thunder in the loss.

The Thunder received no relief in the squad’s second game on Saturday against #4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The women put up a commendable fight against the Athenas, but ultimately lost in four sets by scores of 20-25, 25-19, 25-15 and 25-9. Sophomore libero Jessica Bosse had a team-high 26 digs for the Thunder.

Later that same day, Wheaton took on East Texas Baptist University and picked up their first victory of the tournament in three sets by scores of 25-17, 25-18 and 25-19. Freshman outside hitter Meghan Lacey led the charge with a team-high 13 kills in the match and 11 digs.

The end of the invitational marked the end of the Thunder’s lengthy road start to the season. The Thunder played two matches this past week, both at home.

The first saw the Thunder pick up their second straight win against Lake Forest College in three sets by scores of 27-25, 25-20 and 25-17. Wheaton’s two best passers, sophomore setter Kelly Thornton and senior Ashley Torok, led the team with 19 and 17 assists, respectively.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the team’s first home CCIW matchup on Wednesday night was spoiled by #22 Elmhurst College who defeated Wheaton in four sets by scores of 25-18, 25-27, 21-25 and 20-25. Junior middle hitter Emily Potts swatted a team-high four blocks in the defeat. Despite walking away without a win, Potts remained optimistic that this past week of play has the Thunder headed in the right direction.

“I am so impressed with the way our team is becoming more and more unified,” Potts explained. “We are jumping hurdles and competing really well.”

After taking this coming week off, the Thunder’s next hurdles will be a three-match tournament during the CCIW/WIAC Crossover Tournament in Steven’s Point, Wisc.

Women’s volleyball preview

In her fourth year as head coach for the Thunder, Brittany Smith is confident and enthusiastic about the culture of service and competitiveness she has fostered with her team.

“Our goal is to build culture and then add wins,” said Smith. “I want people to see something different when we are on the court. I want our opponents to see the servant leadership and competitiveness of our team in the way we play each game.”

The current seniors on the team were freshmen when Smith took over, and have only known her system and goals throughout their volleyball careers at Wheaton. A team built on service and communication, the Wheaton women’s volleyball team is now all on the same page and ready to overcome anything that comes their way during the season.

A homemade birthday card from last year’s squad is proudly on display in Smith’s office and was recently updated with a red magic marker by this year’s team to say, “Still on the same page.”

Looking forward, the Thunder face a stacked lineup of invitationals and ranked opponents from all over the midwest and around the country. This season, the women will compete against seven opponents in the top 25.

In November, their record will prove if they are truly  operating on the same page. With a CCIW pre-seasoned rank of fifth, Smith is gunning for a top three place in the conference and hoping for multiple key wins against ranked opponents.

Although the Thunder strive for wins on the court, the dynamic of the team goes far beyond the court and into the classroom and community.

“The end goal is for the girls to take the skills of volleyball — their servant leadership and competitiveness — and translate that to every aspect of life,” said Smith.

The women’s volleyball team is working to set the tone not only for the CCIW, but for the Wheaton College student body as they seek greatness through servant-leadership. By season’s end, Smith hopes to “empower young women to use their gifts to glorify God through service and competitiveness.”

The Thunder kick off the season in St. Paul, Minn. at the Bethel Invitational where they will face Wartburg College and UW-Superior.

Preparing for CCIW tournament

Following the Thunder’s season high of four straight wins the previous week, the Thunder found themselves in a low, losing all three games leading up to the CCIW tournament. The Thunder began their week with two matches on Saturday in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

The Thunder began their day facing off against Wartburg College, losing the game in straight sets. Despite losing all three sets, the Thunder put up a strong fight against Wartburg College, forcing the first set into extra points before Wartburg could gain the required two point lead to end the set at 26-24. In the second set, the Thunder fell four points behind Wartburg to lose the set 25-21, while the final set had another extremely close matchup, with the Thunder once again pushing the score to 24-26 before losing their final set. The Thunder walked away with a disappointing loss, but showed their ability to hold their own against Wartburg, who came into the game with a 23-10 season record.

In their second game on Saturday, the Thunder faced off against Cornell College, who walked into the match with a 22-6 win-loss record this season. The Thunder lost their first set against Cornell 25-14, with Cornell pulling away with an eight-point streak to finish the set. In the second set, sophomore outside hitter Shelby Knowles stood out with seven kills to help the Thunder secure their 23-25 victory. In the next set, the Thunder made a strong effort, tying up the game five times before Cornell took their lead for the final time with a four-point streak, bringing them up 9-6. The Thunder continued to lose ground throughout the set, with it ending with a 25-17 loss for the Thunder. In the final set, the Thunder attempted to rally with a five-point streak bringing them to a 4-7 lead. Cornell caught up at 8-8, at which point they scored four points to gain the lead that they would carry until their 25-18 victory.

On Tuesday, the Thunder faced off against CCIW opponent Carthage College, losing all three sets while Carthage maintained their perfect CCIW season. They proved once again that, despite going up against such a successful team, the Thunder could hold their own, losing the first two sets by four points each. In the third set, the Thunder lost some ground, finishing off the match with a 25-18 loss. Knowles stood out once again in the match against Carthage, placing 16 of the Thunder’s 33 kills, while freshman setter Alley Lindner led the team in assists, tallying 15 throughout the match.

The Thunder has secured a spot in the CCIW tournament, which will begin today and go into Saturday.

Volley ballin’

The Thunder travelled to Decatur, Il. last Friday to compete in the “Linda Slagell Dig For the Cure Tournament” hosted by Millikin University. The Thunder began their tournament on Friday by facing off against Millikin University, currently placed second in the CCIW standings. The Thunder lost all three sets against Millikin. The Thunder kept up with Millikin in the first set, keeping the game tied with a score of 8-8 before Millikin found their stride, scoring nine of the next ten points, finishing the set 25-15. In the second set the Thunder came out with a 0-4 lead before Millikin tied it up 4-4. The Thunder took the lead for the second and last time with a 4-5 lead, ultimately losing the set 25-16. The Thunder took the first point in the final set through an attack error by Millikin, trailing for the remainder of the set, losing 25-15. During the match, sophomore outside hitter Shelby Knowles led the Thunder’s scoring with seven kills, while sophomore setter Ashley Torok tallied two service aces and 13 assists.

The Thunder then went head to head with Simpson college, losing the first set 23-25 before bouncing back to win the next three sets (25-16) (25-12) (25-18). During the match, Knowles and Torok secured two aces each, with Torok making 26 assists and Knowles having 23 digs and earning 13 kills. Senior opposite Andy DeMoss also placed 13 kills and four blocks in the match. The Thunder ended their first day splitting their matches and bringing their season record to 9-17.

The next day, the Thunder began their undefeated day with a match against Blackburn College. Setting the tone for a victorious day, the Thunder dominated the first set, winning by a staggering 15 points. The Thunder continued their impressive lead for the second and third sets as well, winning 25-15 and 25-11. The scoring was led by freshman middle hitter Emily Potts and senior middle hitter Lindsay Stein, who each placed six kills throughout the match followed by freshman middle hitter Brooke Haskins and sophomore opposite Sarah Reiskytl, who landed five and four kills, respectively. Stein also lead the defence by securing five blocks, followed by senior opposite Andy DeMoss picking up three of the final seven blocks.

The Thunder came across a setback to their victorious performance as they found themselves face to face with Dubuque University for their final match in the tournament, losing the first set 23-25. With Brooke Haskins and Ashley Torok paving the way with 21 and 24 assists throughout the match, respectively, the Thunder found their way back on top, winning the next set with a crushing 15 point lead, before settling in to win the next set by six points, and winning the last set at 25-13. Knowles stood out on the offensive end with 17 kills and 18 digs, with both Torok and Knowles each placing two service aces. On the defensive end, freshman outside hitter Katie Rohrer tallied six blocks on top of her five kills.

Overall, the Thunder finished the tournament on Saturday with three wins and one loss, a record streak so far for the Thunder. But they weren’t done with their streak quite yet. On Tuesday night, the Thunder faced off against and defeated Augustana College. This was a key CCIW win for the Thunder, as Augustana walked onto the court with a 20-8 win loss streak, the third highest in the league. After winning their first set 25-23, the Thunder took a disappointing loss of 13-25. After the set, the Thunder pulled together to win the next set by the widest margin the Thunder had seen so far this year, and keeping Augustana to single digits with a 25-9 set. In the final set, the Thunder finished the match up with a 25-16 win.

After the match on Tuesday night, the Thunder find themselves placed third in the CCIW, a season high for the team, with a season high winning streak of four games.