Women’s volleyball: balanced and experienced

Robert Andrews, Staff Reporter

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Two years ago, Oakland volleyball was ranked third in the Horizon League Preseason Poll. They didn’t disappoint; they won the conference title.

This season they are again ranked third in the Horizon League Preseason Poll. Premonition?

“I think they have taken on a challenge that started last November to prepare for this season,” said head coach Rob Beam. “We’ll take the poll into consideration and put it into the tank as a little extra fuel in our preparation.”

The Golden Grizzlies ended last season at the Horizon League Championship when they lost to Valparaiso and finished 18-13, with a conference record of 12-4.

This season Oakland will take on a tough non-conference schedule.

“What we try to create in our scheduling is a competitive development and opportunity for us to prepare for the Horizon League season,” Beam said.

Teams such as No.21 Louisville, Arizona State University, and Rice University are some of the stronger programs the Golden Grizzlies will face early in the season.

“If we are successful in our non-conference competition, we position ourselves for the potential at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament,” Beam said.

One of the strong points to this team is defence and experience. The majority of the team (nine out of 16) is upperclassmen.

“The defensive specialist group is outstanding, five really capable ball handlers, great servers, people that can play multiple positions in the backcourt,” said Beam. “I think that will be a relative strength for us.”

Oakland’s also got this in the tank: a recruiting class in the top-98 in the country, as rated by PrepVolleyball.

Freshman middle hitter Megan Hobler, a centerpiece of the incomers, played on the USA Volleyball A1 Junior National Training Team this past summer.

The Golden Grizzlies have their “Iron Trio” back from last season: redshirt junior Sammy Condon, senior Melissa Deatsch and senior Alli Gutschow. All three played in every set last season.

Condon was named to her second-straight All-Horizon League team last season. Deatsch was named to her first All-Horizon team last season.

Oakland will spend its first two and a half weeks on the road before returning home to play Western Michigan at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sep. 13 in the O’rena. The Golden Grizzlies then hit the road again for three weeks before playing at home at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, October 7, against University of Illinois at Chicago.