With the power of the returners combined with the energy of the newcomers, this could be the dream team.
With 6 returning letter winners and 11 new players on UNO’s 2018 volleyball team, head coach Rose Shires is extremely excited to begin her 29th season at the helm of the Mavericks. The team consists of 11 newcomers who all bring great energy to the program.
“The energy these girls bring to our practice might be the highest it’s been in a decade,” said Shires, at UNO’s fall media day. The coaching staff emphasized the need for athletic women that could play a multitude of positions and be extremely competitive, but also be competitive on a consistent basis.
“Having so many new players makes for a great atmosphere,” said sophomore Claire Mountjoy, who played for UNO last year. She feels confident not only in her ability, but also the team’s.
“I think the new girls are really good for our team because they each bring a different skill set and have helped build our team in more ways than one,” Mountjoy said.
Senior outside hitter Mackenzie Horkey, who is playing her fifth year for the team, is playing the strongest of her career, according to Shires – her jump has returned to 10’ 2” and 10’ 3” consistently, after an injury caused her to take a medical redshirt. Right alongside her is senior outside hitter Abby Bergsten, who brings consistency everywhere she goes.
Sophomores Isabella Sade and Anna Blaschko are back as a middle blocker duo. Both as freshman took the top two spots in the conference record book in blocks per set and blocking percentage.
With the loss of four-year setter starter, Sydney O’Shaughnessy, coach Shires believes she has found an outstanding setter – sophomore Jaclyn Taylor – that will hopefully follow Sydney’s momentum. Jaclyn has been with the program since January of last year.
“I think she is setting a strong foundation for a very high level of play. I think things are going to be at a higher level for us,” Shires said.
Freshman Sadie Limback is “somebody that you should probably keep an eye on,” according to Shires. “I think that she’s gonna make waves in the conference… and I think could challenge for Freshman of the Year in the conference.”
Another athlete of note is sophomore Claire Leonard. She transferred from Canisius College last year, where she led her team in kills – bringing a bonus in hitting power for the Mavs.
Having a mix of returners and new additions, playing at their best, should provide a dream team for coach Shires. The Mavericks will ultimately be seeking a position in the Summit League Championship – and a birth in the NCAA tournament by the end of their season.
“They have put in a tremendous amount of work in the offseason,” Shires said. “This is the fittest, fastest, and strongest we have been in a very long time. We’re ready to make some things happen.”
The regular season will start on August 24th at the New Orleans Invitational. Quickly following will be the Omaha Challenge, which will take place at Baxter Arena from August 31st through September 1st.