By: Kelsey Whaley
Stop 3 of the MIAC Volleyball Camp Tour brought me back to St. Paul. I had a chance to take in a practice at Bethel University, where the Royals are gearing up for the 2015 season.
After finishing with a record of 7-4 in 2014, tied for 4th in the conference, this could be the year Bethel overtakes the top spot in the standings. They’ve returned all their starters from last season, and their height in the middle gives them plenty of options on offense (more on that in a bit). They are also led by Gretchen Hunt, who is entering her 15th year as Bethel’s head coach.
As always, thanks to Coach Hunt and the players for letting me sit in on practice. Also, thanks to Alisha for talking to me and listening to me ramble, and the kind employee who pointed me in the right direction when I was looking for the gymnasium.
Now that the Academy Award worthy thank yous are done, here are my six observations about the Bethel University Royals Volleyball Team.
- They’re back and better than ever- Every year, athletic teams have to deal with losing starters and key players on their roster. Bethel is one of the teams that doesn’t have to deal with that challenge this volleyball season. The Royals return all their starters from the 2014 season, which gives them and Coach Hunt several advantages. For starters (pun intended), the players are already familiar and comfortable with both the systems and teammates surrounding them. More importantly, though, Coach Hunt doesn’t have to spend too much time teaching the fundamentals to her players and can instead focus on the nitty-gritty details of the defensive and offensive schemes.
- They’re still young- Even though Bethel will be led by nine upperclassmen, a lot of their
Bethel DS Jillian Krier makes a pass during practice
- Tough “out”- In baseball, hitters that go deep in the count and force pitchers to make their pitches are known as tough outs. The Bethel volleyball team as a whole should be labeled the same way. Their defensive specialists are extremely scrappy and at least touch every ball hit in their direction. The Royals make their opponents earn their point and refuse to give them away. This can physically and emotionally take its toll on opponents. If a team is going to beat Bethel, they’ll need an arsenal of “pitches” and energy to do it.
- Hard Hitters- The Bethel hitters are ruthless. They hit the ball hard and rarely make errors. Last season they were one of the top 4 teams in the MIAC in hitting efficiency. To make matters worse (for opponents that is), they show no mercy on offense. Every time a hitter goes up for the ball, they are going for the kill. Trust me, it’s not exactly a pleasant feeling when one of those balls hits your forearms either.
- Talented Middles- The Royals middle blockers are very good. Both Tegan LaBerge and
Bethel Middle Blocker Tegan LaBerge and Right Side Hitter
Nicole Deberry make a block during practice
- They’re tall- The entire team is tall. There are only two players under 5-5, setter Katie Lubben and defensive specialist Kevyn Janicek, on the roster, but other than those two players, everyone breaks the 5-6 mark. Every Royal is above the average height for a female. This height gives them several advantages, including the few I talked about earlier.
Where to next?On August 25, I head to Macalester College to watch two teams in a preseason scrimmage. Augsburg will be up first, as they look to prove why they were ranked No. 20 in preseason polls. Then, I’ll talk with St. Kate’s University coaches and players to discuss their preseason camp and goals for the 2015 season.