North Central Women’s Volleyball Season Recap: a senior says goodbye as a young team continues to learn and grow together.
Back in the Building
Sports without fans aren’t the same, and the North Central Women’s Volleyball team definitely felt the effects last year. The way Gregory Arena echoes, and the noise it allows fans to create, was made all the more obvious during pandemic restrictions on fans. So for these Cardinals, particularly the many underclassmen who had never played in front of home fans, it was an incredible experience.
Emily Stallmann, Sophomore Libero: “It was definitely surreal to step into our first game and have a crowd and see my parents there and have all of our fans there, it was super fun. But I think last year just having all the time to meet everybody and form a bond with everyone and learn how to play with each other. And I think that really helped come in, and it made me feel more safe and confident and secure with playing on the court for the first time. But it was definitely surreal. It was a really cool experience.”
Kendra Battle, Sophomore Opposite Side Hitter: “I feel like, well, once our first game came, that’s a part of me that felt like a freshman, like we had a crowd there, the gym was packed. It was something new for us because last year we weren’t able to have fans so that part of me, I was still scared about. And like that was still new. But I definitely think that last year, like having the full year, our season was in the springtime, we were able to prepare a little bit more. So that definitely helped us. “
Learning On the Job
With only one senior on the roster, much was asked of young players on this roster. Building team chemistry on the court takes time, and the Cardinals feel they could see that in action over the course of this season as the young team gained valuable experience together.
Kyle Exline, Head Coach: “Championships are won in the off season, and it’s not just weight room, it’s it’s really about the team chemistry and how they’re bonding and a lot of the off the court friendships and love that they had for each other really showed on the court and especially with from our senior to juniors to sophomores and freshmen right the entire class. It was really one unit and one team throughout practices and the way they were competing and bantering back and forth in practice. It was really that that chemistry and the love that they have for each other and the love of the game, I think really sparked the cohesion on the court.”
Kaitlyn Boelter-Eberhardt, Senior Outside Hitter: “Well, I guess it was just trying to lead the team as much as possible just because, I mean, I personally actually haven’t had a full season yet either due to the injury my freshman year. So I’ve definitely been around the team long enough, but we’ve been working to build a culture since I’ve been here, something different since Exline been head coach and I think we’ve really succeeded that year with this.”
ES: “I think it’s everything that we do off the court, honestly. Volleyball is a huge mental game and it’s just about how you step on to the corner and what you’re willing to put for your team and for your coaches to get the job done. So I think after the reflecting the past couple of weeks is to go into next season like ready to put everything onto the court so that we can finish with a better result.”
Bittersweet for the Senior
As the lone player in her final season, this year was a bittersweet one for Kaitlyn Boelter-Eberharbt, who was hit particularly hard by a season ending loss to deny the Cardinals a spot in the CCIW tournament. But she’s been impressed by how far her young teammates have come over the last year, and hope her impact will contribute to future success.
KBE: “It’s kind of a little hard love, I’d say I was really disappointed, honestly. I mean, like I said, this team has so much potential and like everyone can see it. And I just know that there’s like such a long road ahead of them for them to just become the best they can be. And I know they can get there. So that was kind of my parting note with the team.”
KE: “There was a lot of disappointment at the end of the season, but then we were able to take time and reflect and really look at what the women built within the culture. They we, as a coaching staff, right, we have very high standards or for the women, and they believed in that vision and they showed more disappointment than the coaches because they know what that standard needs to be and they want to achieve that and they want to achieve that for themselves and then for their teammates.”
Continuing to Look Forward
The difficult end to the season will definitely serve as motivation, and by the time this roster are mostly upperclassmen they will have more college experience and time playing together than most of their peers. Boelter-Eberhardt and Exline can both see the promise of this team’s future, and they’re emphasizing that rather than the way the season ended. The difficulties of this season, combined with all the valuable lessons and growth of those experiences, might be the recipe for success going forward.
KB: “So definitely what stuck with me is how we end the season and how I know we’ve had we had so much potential and it didn’t show obviously by how we ended. So next, like going to next year, definitely want to make sure that we use our full potential. And I know we could go a lot farther in like the tournament and at least make it to the tournament. So definitely making sure that we’re like pushing each other, each game, every practice off season. And I know also once the next season comes.”
KBE: “The number one word I could use is like, there’s so much potential with this team, there’s so many talented girls and they still obviously have so much time to grow. I mean, they’ve got a lot of them, have another 2-3 years and they have to get under their belt. But I mean, under experience is the only way they can learn. So I think what we saw this year was, like, phenomenal, but it can only get better from here.”
KE: “I was extremely proud of the steps that they took and the way they competed. We didn’t get blown out in sets. We didn’t get blown out in matches. We were taking sets off nationally ranked opponents. We were had opportunities to to win those matches and they have that fight. They have that drive. And I was extremely proud and our entire staff was extremely proud of the way they competed and never stopped.”