Friday marks the opening match in Summit League play for the Omaha volleyball team. The Mavericks were picked to finish sixth in the conference and open up with a three game home stand to kick-off conference play. Following is a look at the fellow Summit League teams the Mavericks will see twice before the season concludes in mid-November.
*Ordered by Summit League coach picks*
1 – Denver (7-4) Denver, Colorado
The Pioneers defeated Omaha in the fifth set of the 2015 Summit League Tournament championship game to earn their second-straight Summit League title, and NCAA Tournament berth. Denver is led by Kayla Principato, an All-Summit League Team, and All-Tournament Team member a year ago. Principato had a career high 46 attacks against Omaha in 2015 and is sure to be a versatile right-side hitter for the Pioneers again this fall.
2 – North Dakota State (2-9) Fargo, North Dakota
The Bison lost just one starter from 2015, making them an intriguing pick to win the conference this year, but after a slow start they will be looking to bounce back quick once conference play starts up. Brianna Rasmussen, a 2014 All-Summit Freshmen Team member will look to make a big splash this season alongside the other returning starters. Rasmussen has been setting the team up for success leading the squad in assists in her last three matches.
3 – IUPUI (4-9) Indianapolis, Indiana
Kori Waelbroeck will lead a group of four returning Jaguars into conference play this year. The Jaguars lost to Omaha, who they beat in the regular season twice and in the conference tournament in 2015. Waelbroeck had 16 kills and hits for .289 in a loss to an undefeated Dayton team. Waelbroeck will be the catalyst for the Jaguars, always an intimidating team to face on the road inside “The Jungle.”
4 – Oral Roberts (6-6) Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Eagles last return one of the league’s best players in Laura Milos, who led the Summit
in kills in 2015 (583), kills per set (5.07) and is the conference’s all-time leader in kills per set averaging 4.72. The Eagles also bring back another All-Summit League Team member from 2015 in setter Lucija Bojanjac, who was sixth in the conference in 2015, averaging 10.71 assists per set. The duo is there in Tulsa, but the supporting cast will have to step up like they have so far early in the season if they want to see success down the stretch.
5 – South Dakota (10-1) Vermillion, South Dakota
Similar to the Mavericks, the Coyotes will be breaking in a brand new home court inside the university’s brand new Sports Performance Enhancement Complex. South Dakota has already visited Baxter Arena this year for the Omaha Classic, but didn’t face the Mavericks, defeating Ball State and Abilene Christian 3-1. The Coyotes were currently on a ten-match winning streak at the time this article was written, which shows the Coyotes can charge into conference play with a lot of momentum which might surprise many coaches in the Summit. Audrey Reeg, 2015 All-Summit League Team member and Brittany Jessen, who led the league with 10.77 assists per set last year will be the two to watch.
7 – IPFW (4-9) Fort Wayne, Indiana
2015 Summit League Freshmen of the year Nicole Rightnowar and Olivia Hahn will be a pair to watch when they come to Omaha for their first conference match. The Mastodons are coming off three-straight losses at the Hofstra/Stony Brook Invitational. The Mastodons will be looking to head in a different direction as a team when they face the Mavericks.
8 – South Dakota State (1-11) Brookings, South Dakota
Mattison Munger led the Jackrabbits in assists and assists-per-set in 2015 and will be back to help turn things around in Brookings. The Jackrabbits are currently on a nine-match losing streak dating back to late August.
9 – Western Illinois (3-10) Moline, Illinois
The Bulldogs bring back their assists leader from 2015, Abby Skryd and Kaili Simmons for 2016. Western Illinois hosted their own tournament in early September which featured a 3-2 win over Drake, a team that defeated Omaha at their own tournament 3-1 the weekend prior.