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Monmouth volleyball spikes into new season

August 26, 2011

Joe Florio/The Courier - Returning All-American Junior Chelsey Widdop spikes a volleyball during Thursday’s practice. The team’s first game will be Sept. 1 at the University of Dubuque.

After capturing the Midwest Conference title in 2010, Monmouth College women’s volleyball is back with a vengeance.

Head coach Kari Shimmin brings thirteen seasons of experience on the sidelines with one goal in mind: an elusive second consecutive conference crown.

Shimmin, the 2010 Midwest Conference Coach of the Year and 1997 Monmouth grad, was a two-time All-Conference selection as an outside hitter during her stint as a Fighting Scot.

Over the course of her head coaching career (all of which has been spent on the Fighting Scot bench), Shimmin has compiled 253 victories, making her the winningest coach in Monmouth volleyball history. Her average of 19.5 wins per season speaks to her staying power and penchant for player development.

As was the case last season, coach Shimmin will have many weapons at her disposal throughout the 2011 campaign. Despite losing two key players to graduation and another to transfer, Shimmin and her staff have reloaded with explosive athletes. Thus far two newcomers have made an immediate impact: Mackenzie Gillund of Davenport Central High School, and Washington High School’s Mary Gabbert. Gillund plays outside hitter opposite team captain Chelsey Widdop.            

Shimmin is pleased at what both newcomers have brought to the table.

“Both Mackenzie and Mary not only come from winning programs, but play club volleyball as well,” said Shimmin.

Gillund also values the experience off-season club volleyball provides.

“It seems obvious, but the higher level of competition someone plays during the off-season, the better prepared they will be for playing at the collegiate level,” said Gillund.

Although the season has been underway for only two weeks, Gillund is optimistic regarding her team’s chances for a repeat in 2011.

“I believe we have a successful season upcoming because, although we haven’t played together very long, we already have very good team chemistry,” said Gillund. “The leadership on our team is outstanding, with a lot of help from our four captains: Chelsey Widdop, Megan Creen, Claire Hermie, and Jenna Bean-all of whom really welcomed the new players this year. It’s a little early to tell our style of play, but we’re scrappy – going after absolutely every ball and giving everything we’ve got to not let it drop.”

While Gillund and Gabbert have impressed many in and around the program, a solid roster of experienced talent returns for the Scots. Throughout the inevitable ups and downs of a season, the squad’s four captains (Bean, Creen, Widdop and Hermie) will be relied on heavily for leadership.

Hermie) will be relied on heavily for leadership.

“They bring winning experience to the program, and prove that work ethic in the offseason is key at this level,” said Shimmin.

Leadership will be vital for the Scots if they hope to defend their crown in an improved Midwest Conference. Coach Shimmin feels both the Buccaneers of Beloit College and perennial power St. Norbert will be forces to reckon with in 2011.

“St. Norbert’s girls are big, strong girls who don’t rely on quickness or speed, as we do,” said Shimmin. “Their strength is their outside hitters.”

Shimmin believes Beloit will have improved as well.

“Beloit also has great power in their outside hitting,” Shimmin said. “Since we’re more reliant on speed, quickness, and athleticism, we must control the tempo.”

Just like in 2010, promo nights will be featured throughout the season. “Pizza Hut Serve Nights” will return during all regular season home games. Between the second and third sets, anyone in the crowd wearing a red shirt will get to try their hand at serving at a hula hoop placed on the opposite court. If successful, the server wins a free pizza.

There will also be a Blackout for the Scots’ first home game, on Friday night, Sept. 23, where the Scots will take on Beloit at 7 p.m.

Monmouth’s quest for their second consecutive Midwest Conference championship will begin Thursday, Sept. 1 at Dubuque. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The junior varsity squad, coached by 2011 graduate Laura Anton, will kick off their season in a contest preceding the varsity contest-beginning at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, the Glennie Gymnasium will play host to the Monmouth College Invitational, with a full day of games beginning with opening round action at 9:30 a.m., up until the championship game at 5:30 p.m. The field is comprised of the host Fighting Scots, MacMurray, Principia, Coe, Dubuque, and Rockford.

The aforementioned “Blackout” game will be the first time this season the Scots face Beloit, and on Saturday, October 8, the Green Knights of St. Norbert come to town in what promises to be a thrilling match up.

 

Kyle McEwen
Contributing Writer

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