Posted 3 months ago
By John Axtell
CHADRON – Chadron State College volleyball coach Janel Baily says she’s seen plenty of positive developments during the first two weeks of practice.
“We’ve got a strong competitive atmosphere and appear to be three deep at every position,” says Baily, the interim coach a year ago before being named the permanent coach earlier this year.
“The players reported in phenomenal condition and have formed a great team chemistry. I am really encouraged by everything that has happened, and particularly the fact that we have competition at every position. No one can afford to be complacent and that’s good.”
The team is a mix of veterans and newcomers. Five letterwinners are on the roster along with a redshirt, four transfers, four freshmen and Chadron native Jamie McLain, who switched from playing basketball to volleyball last spring.
The 6-foot-1 Jester has been in the mix in the front row ever since she enrolled at CSC in 2010. She ranked second on the team in blocks last season.
DeCent was a stalwart for the Eagles in 2011 after transferring from Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, but redshirted last fall. She’s 5-8, but is well-known for her impressive vertical jump.
The other letterwinners are Erika Roybal, a junior outside hitter who showed much improvement a year ago when she became a starter; junior Alyssa Bauer, who began her career as a setter but is now a key defensive specialist; and sophomore Justine Ackie, the starting setter most of last season.
Coach Baily said Ackie is “twice the setter” she was a year ago, but she’s still not assured of the starting nod because freshmen, Mariah Conyers and Shelby Gardner, have shown why they came with excellent credentials. “This is the kind of competition we need on our team,” Baily said. “It will make everyone better.”
There’s also strong competition in the front line. Besides the three veterans, there’s a redshirt, three transfers and freshman Alia Brennan of Chadron battling for playing time.
The redshirt is Shannon Durck, a 5-8 outside hitter who starred in both volleyball and basketball at the Classical Academy in Colorado Springs.
The transfers are Hannah Flaming, Ana Kasljevic and Nikki Schmidt. “They are very athletic and have a lot of experience,” Baily said. “We went for quality in our recruiting and are pleased with the results.”
Flaming is a 5-11 outside hitter who gained All-American honors at Butler Community College at El Dorado, Kan., last fall. She joined the Eagles at the start of the second semester and so she could participate in spring practice.
Kasljevic is a native of Boznia, but graduated from Heritage High School in Littleton, Colo., before attending Otero Community College at LaJunta, Colo. She’s a 6-foot middle hitter who was credited with 124 kills and 73 blocks last season.
Schmidt is a 5-10 right side hitter who was a standout at Northeastern Junior College at Sterling, Colo. She earned All-Region IX seasonal and tournament honors a year ago while finishing with 224 kills, 127 digs and 66 blocks.
Brennan is a tall middle hitter who was a standout on Chadron High’s excellent team a year ago. Baily said Brennan “knows how to work and is contending for playing time.”
The fourth transfer, Brittany Oddo, could be the Eagles’ starting libero, although Baily said it’s too soon to know for sure. Just 5-4, she is from Arizona and played at Scottsdale Community College, where she came up with 355 digs last fall.
Chadron sisters Jamie and Jazzy McLain are also seeking playing time in the back row. “They are working their tails off and would run through a brick wall for the team,” Baily said. “That kind of effort is something every team can use.”
The Eagles will open their season by playing in two tournaments. They are Sept. 6 and 7 at Nebraska-Kearney and Sept. 13 and 14 at Colorado State-Pueblo. The first home matches will be Sept. 20 and 21 against RMAC rivals Metro State and Regis.