After missing the NAIA National Tournament in 2010 for the first time in five seasons, Olivet Nazarene returned to the national stage last fall.
Its stay was short-lived,however. The Tigers were swept in three sets in the opening round and were kept from advancing to pool play at the national tourney.
For some teams, getting back to nationals would be enough. Don’t count these Tigers among that group.
“Our focus is nationals, but we don’t just want to get there,” senior captain Carolyn Goettsch said. “It was fun to get back there, but the outcome wasn’t what we wanted.”
That attitude sits well with ONU coach Brenda Williams.
“I like that they just don’t want to get back there,” said Williams, now in her 17th season with the Tigers. “They’re hungry to get there, but it won’t be enough.”
Williams feels she has the talent on the roster to get back, even though there are just two seniors returning.
Goettsch is one of them. The Utica, Mich., native was the team’s most improved player last season and a second-team all-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference performer as a middle blocker.
In her first two seasons at ONU, Goettsch was a jack-of-all-trade in the front row, filling in admirably whenever necessary. When she took over in the middle full-time, she became a dominant player.
“I had played middle since high school, so I was really comfortable with it,” Goettsch said. “Olivet has had some great middles over the years, like Sara Byrne and Michelle McFadden. I just want to try to continue that tradition.”
Katherine Hozian is the other returning senior. The versatile Hozian will play around the rotation again, providing great defense in the back row and solid hitting when in the front row.
Manteno graduate Haley Hatalla, a sophomore, and Melissa Bartholomew, a freshman, will replace Dee Ann Garvin as the libero. Garvin was one of the top defensive players in Olivet Nazarene history, and Hatalla is up for the challenge.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Hatalla said. “In high school, I was an outside hitter, but I love to play defense. I just want to help this team win.”
The Tigers are traditionally known for their hitters and they have a good one in transfer McKenzie Thompson. The Plano, Texas, native played two seasons at Ashford University (Iowa) and was 31st in the NAIA with 457 kills last season. Her sister Peyton Thompson is Williams’ new graduate assistant coach.
Peyton Thompson was an assistant last season at Indiana Wesleyan, the team the Tigers open with today at the Lee University Tournament in Cleveland, Tenn.
Other local players will also be on board to help the Tigers. Herscher’s Carly Wenzelman will see time in the front row while Wilmington’s Renee Enz is pushing junior setter Rachel Raynor for playing time.
“The only way to get better is to have some competition, and Renee is giving Rachel some competition,” Williams said. “That’s a good thing.”
This article originally ran in the Daily Journal, Kankakee, Ill. on Aug. 24, 2012.