Volleyball Team Enjoying a Block Party at Midseason
At roughly the halfway point of the 2017 season, the women’s volleyball team is the top team in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in two major categories (and among the best in the country) and several players are among the top 10 in the conference in a variety of statistics. Their record (4-9 overall, 2-4 in the SLIAC) is just okay, but still better than it’s been at this point for a number of years.
“We have a lot to be happy about,” said head coach Jim Hunstein. “Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us still, but we’ve built a pretty good foundation with all the work the players have put in so far. These women are excited and working hard and earning the success we’ve had.”
While the team is anywhere from fifth to eighth in most statistical categories, they are first in the conference in total blocks (for team stats, total blocks is the sum of solo blocks and block assists; for individual stats, total blocks is the sum of solo blocks and half the block assists) with 97 (52 solos and 90 assists) and with 2.16 blocks per set. These data are based on the overall record for all matches played. In conference play, they are second with 47 total blocks but still first with 2.11 blocks per set.
The team total of 97 blocks is 15th in the country, between Hardin Simmons University with 98 and Hanover College with 96.5. Blackburn plays Hanover on Oct. 16 as part of a tri-match at Spalding University in Louisville, KY. The 2.16 blocks per set is 21st in the country and are flanked by some of the best teams in Division III. The Beavers are right between Colorado College (nationally ranked #3 overall) and St. Thomas (Minn.) University (#21), who are tied at 2.18, and Carnegie Mellon University (#13) and Kean University, tied with 2.15.
They are the only team in the conference averaging more than two blocks per set. By comparison, Blackburn opponents have 72 total blocks (28 solos and 87 assists) and are averaging 1.59 blocks per set.
“We sort of changed our blocking philosophy this year,” the second-year coach said. “The blockers really bought into it and the results are showing, not only in the blocking categories, but in the won-loss columns as well. The better we are at blocking, the better the diggers are behind them.” Freshman middle/outside hitter Kaitlyn Wiegand (Springfield, IL/Springfield Lutheran) has made the most of the new approach and is one of the conference leaders. She is second with 45 total blocks (19 solo and 24 assists) and third with 0.98 blocks per set. Junior middle hitter Shelsie Timmermeier (Gillespie) has 29 total blocks (11 solos and 18 assists) and is averaging 0.74 blocks per set, which are eighth and seventh, respectively, in the conference. Timmermeier has a .216 hitting percentage, which is fifth in the conference.
Junior outside hitter Kendall Knop (Strasburg, IL/Stewardson-Strasburg), a transfer from Lincoln Land Community College, is having a major impact. She is averaging 2.8 kills per set, which is sixth in the conference, and 3.95 digs per set, good for seventh. Senior libero Lexi Dick (De Land, IL/De Land-Weldon) is tenth with 3.72 digs per set. Knop leads the team with 123 kills, followed by Wiegand with 77 and junior right side hitter Emily Schroeder (St. Louis/Lutheran North) with 56. Knop also leads in digs with 174 followed by freshman defensive specialist Annika Ochs (Bethalto, IL/Civic Memorial) with 150 and Dick with 145. Ochs is tops on the team with 15 service aces followed by Wiegand and Knop with 11 each.
“This is a good start for us,” Hunstein said. “But it’s just that, a start. As I said, we have a lot of work ahead, but there is a great vibe on the team and they are up for the challenge.”