A new era: Volleyball season preview


Jack Hoover

New head coach Matt Buttermore. Photo courtesy of UNO communications.

Last season offered plenty of optimism for the University of Nebraska at Omaha volleyball team.

The Mavericks were a young, energetic team last year that finished third in Summit League play after a 12-4 season – their best finish since the 2015 season.

The season may not have ended the way the team would have preferred, as they were upset by North Dakota State in the first round of the Summit League tournament, but that didn’t get rid of the feeling that Maverick volleyball was on the right track.

The bar for Omaha this season will be much higher than just the first round of the Summit League tournament. The pre-season Summit League coaches poll picked the Mavericks to finish third in the conference for the second straight year, but the team will surely be aiming to finish even higher than that.

Whatever happens, Maverick volleyball seems set for an exciting season in 2019. Here are a few important factors to watch out for this year.

New Coach in Charge
For the past 29 years, Rose Shires has been the only head coach Omaha volleyball has known. This year, there’s a new coach in charge.

It’s not an easy job taking over from a beloved coach who has helped build the Maverick volleyball program for the last three decades. But Shire’s replacement, Matt Buttermore, seems to have the right pedigree.

Coming from Hastings College, Buttermore has a proven track-record of success. In seven years of coaching the Broncos, Buttermore won three conference championships, and in 2016 he led his team to the NAIA national championship.

Now with the Mavericks, his transition seems to be going well.

“We have the same base foundation [with Buttermore],” senior Courtney Morehead said. “I think team chemistry is the most important thing, and although we might have a new leader in place, I think we still have the same ability to get there.”

The Experienced Herd
Last season, Omaha volleyball was affectionately dubbed the “New Herd,” since the team had 11 newcomers. The energy that the new players brought to the team last year played a large part in the success that the Mavericks had in 2018.

Now in 2019, the “New Herd” is no longer so new, and that’s a good thing. While the team seems to still carry that same energy as last season, they are now more experienced, as well. This combination could go a long way in carrying the team to victory.

Not every member of the new herd returned this season. The most noticeable absence, perhaps, is setter Sydney Case, who made the decision to transfer schools. Last season, Case garnered multiple awards, such as Summit League Freshman of the year and Setter of the Year.

While her loss could have an impact on the Mavericks this season, there are still many more returners to watch out for. One of these returners to watch is junior Isabella Sade.

While Sade wasn’t technically a part of the “New Herd” last season, she still has had an impact on the program since her first year at Omaha. In 2017, Sade was named the Summit League Freshman of the Year and last season was named to the All-Summit team. Now in her third year at Omaha, Sade could be one of the most important players for the Mavericks this season.

Challenging Schedule
If Omaha wants to really test themselves this season in their non-conference schedule, then it looks like they’ll get their wish.

The Maverick’s schedule features a number of ranked teams and teams from the Power Five conference. The most notable game on the schedule, though, is likely to be the Sept. 13 game against in-state rivals the Creighton Bluejays.

The Bluejays start the season ranked No. 18 in the nation. The away game will take place at Creighton, and fans should expect a packed house in what is the first meeting between the two teams at the Division I level.

At the time of print, the Mavericks will have opened their season in the Omaha Challenge, competing against Abilene Christian, Idaho State and Albany. The next game for the Mavericks will be against the Kansas Jayhawks on Sept. 3 at Baxter Arena.