Volleyball - Thu, Aug. 13, 2009
Oklahoma Baptist University re-launched its volleyball program last
year - its first season since the 1980s - and the year of experience
was beneficial to Lady Bison coach Anna Monsen Howle.
OBU worked to a 24-16 record last year, a strong record for a
first-year program. What's even more remarkable is that the team
accomplished 24 wins with just one dominant hitter.
"It was really great to experience NAIA volleyball last year," said Howle, who played college ball at the University of Oklahoma. "I didn't have any idea about the level of competition going in and recruiting for last year's team was just a whirlwind. Last year makes it a lot easier to explain to girls what to expect and how hard they need to work. We have high expectations. Our returning players also know what to expect now."
Chassie Hamilton was the Sooner Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year last season and was a first-team All-SAC selection, averaging a conference-best 3.9 kills. Howle said Hamilton isn't resting on those early accolades.
"Chassie has made a lot of improvement from the first time I saw her in our '08 camp," said Howle. "She really worked hard in the spring and played in adult nationals this summer on a team that got second this year. She went head-to-head with some really good NCAA Division I players and held her own. She's really gotten a lot better."
Another big part of last year's squad was setter Brittany Palmer, who earned All-Conference honors as well. Palmer was third in assists in the SAC at 9.1 per game.
"Brittany worked hard in the spring," Howle said. "She coached a club team this summer and learned a lot more about the game. She knew a lot before that, but now she's even more knowledgeable."
Returning libero Cassie Winker, who was fourth in the SAC in digs last year, also has shown promise after a good freshman season.
"Cassie really improved. The thing about Cassie is she's a winner. Any team she's on is going to win because she's going to make everyone better," Howle said.
Also returning are Shannon Hamilton, who played every game last year, and Tasha White, who led the team in aces. OBU also has redshirt freshman Gabi Samuels added to the mix.
"Gabi has had a year under her belt to get to know the program. She is going to fight for a spot on the floor," Howle said.
The newcomers are expected to give the Lady Bison a huge lift in 2009.
Tamy Leipelt transfers from Kent State for her senior season and will be joined by her sister, Suyan, who comes in from Northeastern Junior College.
"Tamy is going to be a great addition to the team and she loves OBU," said Howle. "She's going to be a huge part of our season. She adds a dimension to the team that we didn't have last year. She's a great right-side attacker.
Adding Tamy's sister raises the bar. I think when you put a family member out there, it really just adds to the expectations for them and the rest of the team. Suyan is a great defender and has great ball control."
The freshman class includes Skyler Strahm, Sabra Clark, Tarah Derden, Tori Orms, Megan Fort and Katie Stapleton.
Strahm and Derden should make a fast impact on the team's offense.
"Skyler and Terah are both middles and they are both very creative and quick. We'll be able to run a very fast offense because of them," said Howle.
Clark is expected to get plenty of time as a setter, while Orms' versatility should find her on the floor a lot in her first season.
"Sabra sets the ball really fast. She's very good," Howle said. "Tori is an all-around hitter and she'll be a utility player. She'll fight for a spot right away. She's a great competitor."
While the Lady Bison have made big moves in personnel, the strength of schedule will present a big challenge.
"We play a tougher schedule this year and I'm expecting big things. The big thing is that the girls are ready to get going, too. They're very excited," said Howle.
Howle also hopes for bigger things in fan support this season.