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Volleyball washes away 28-year drought for Conference title

November 5, 2010

Most often it takes a torrential downpour to end a prolonged drought. For the women’s volleyball team, an unwavering motto stitched on the back of its shirts works just as well. The Fighting Scots are conference champions for the first time since 1982.

“One team, one heart, one dream. Fight ‘til the end,” has been the adage the women have stuck by over the course of the season and as the women prepare to host the Midwest Conference Tournament on Friday Nov. 5, there is little doubt that mentality will change. Should the Scots win the four-team tournament, they will advance to the NCAA tournament.

When Kari Shimmin  was asked how special it was to earn her first conference championship of her 13-year coaching career at MC, and what the accomplishment meant to the team, it appeared the weight of the achievement had not yet completely sunk in.

“You know I wish I had a standard answer for that,” said Shimmin. “It’s exciting and it shows the hard work and dedication of the players. It shows team unity. I’d like it to be the start of a tradition.”

Not since 1981 and 1982 has such a tradition occurred when the team won back-to-back conference titles, but after acquiring their first 20-win season since 2007, the Scots look to be back on the right track, despite going 5-5 in their last 10 games of the season.

“Some players were sick and others were injured at that time,” said Shimmin. We were a little dinged up from the Illinois Wesleyan tournament, but we’ve been fine tuning and working on some new plays. We’re healthy now.”

On top of having a healthy roster, the team has benefited from an improvement in team chemistry from last year according to Shimmin and senior setter/captain, Laura Anton.

“Our team has changed from last year because we are more of one unit [playing] together,” said Anton. “Every girl on our team has talent and can help us out. Our team is able to adjust if coach changes a lineup or puts someone into serve; we just simply play well together.”

The Scots certainly have not relied on one or two players this season as five players have 200 or more kills, led by sophomore Chelsey Widdop’s 351. Junior Kendra Newlon leads the team with 91 blocks.

Not only has Anton noticed a change in how well the team has meshed, but Anton noted how she has changed as a player.

“I think I have become more game smart,” said Anton. “I can notice where a spot is open on the court and tell a hitter where to hit, or tell a hitter to change a hit up because the other team knows what they are doing.”

St. Norbert, Lake Forest and Beloit College will all compete in the single-elimination MWC Tournament, which begins at 4:30 p.m. on Friday with the championship on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m.

After waiting 28 years to be named conference champions, the women have now set their sights on earning a bid to the NCAA tournament; a dream undeniably worth fighting for ‘til the end.


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