By JACK VANASSCHE, Staff Writer
A new season will bring new faces, a new offense and a new identity for the University of Michigan-Dearborn volleyball team in 2016.
After losing five seniors last season in which the team went 6-27 (1-21 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference), the Wolverines will be one of the younger teams in the conference with only two seniors on their roster. However, they have an abundance of young talent that will only get better with experience.
“We had three seniors last year who are no longer with us,” said sophomore middle blocker Kristina Ivanovic. “We’re a ‘younger’ team this year. [Knowing that] is driving us to push ourselves harder so we can create a strong, cohesive, and competitive team.”
Head coach Eric Stark says he’s eager to see how his freshmen from last year have grown.
“I am very excited for their development. We have a lot of experienced second year players because they all contributed last year, and we worked hard all winter to continue their growth.”
One of the new faces on the court this season is that of Daniella Barile; a freshman setter who will likely have a large impact on the team’s new offense. According to Coach Stark, Barile will be running the offense this season, and says she will be crucial in creating a more “complex” offense than the team has had in previous seasons.
Stark noted that the offense will be the Wolverine’s greatest strength this season.
“This is the deepest offensive team I have had here. We have returned every offensive weapon from last year and added strong offensive players that will challenge them.”
The Wolverines bolstered their defense for this season by employing junior Brianne Alspaugh who will add size and power to their middle blocker position. Alspaugh is a junior college transfer from St. Clair County Community College.
“She (Alspaugh) will have an impact in the conference this year,” said Stark. “She is strong and puts up a great block.”
In the offseason, the Wolverines were working beyond stats that would show up in a box score.
“The team decided in January they wanted their identity to be hard work and discipline,” said Coach Stark. “We are re-establishing our mantra of hard work and discipline. We are establishing the identity we want as a program.”
The Wolverines will put their team to the test for the first time this season on Friday, Aug. 26 in a doubleheader. They will take on Trinity International University at 3 p.m. and Spring Arbor at 5 p.m. as a part of the Early Bird Tournament.