Sept. 3, 2014
GALESBURG—Starting the season 0-4 would raise a red flag for most teams, but that’s not the case for Carl Sandburg College volleyball coach Todd Winkler.
The Chargers opened their year by dropping all four of their matches in the Battle of the Dells on Aug. 22-23, but three of those losses came against teams ranked in the initial NJCAA Division II poll of the season (No. 1 Parkland, No. 4 Illinois Central and No. 17 Iowa Central).
“We played a lot of good teams and took some lumps,” Winkler said, “but I think it’ll really help us when we get into conference play.”
Sandburg begins Arrowhead Conference action tonight when it travels to Black Hawk East for a 6 p.m. match. The Chargers’ first home conference match is 6 p.m. Sept. 10 against Illinois Valley.
Sandburg returns two of its top attackers from last season in sophomore middle hitters Rachel Barr (Mendota) and Sam Roth (Stark County). They led the Chargers last season in blocks (Roth 100; Barr 77) and paced the team’s freshmen last season in kills (Barr 143; Roth 63).
Justine Bodenhamer (Avon) also returns after posting 605 digs (4.35/set) in her first season as the Chargers’ libero, and Katie McGee (Galesburg) is expected to play a larger role this season at right side.
Winkler will turn to the freshman tandem of Brea Simkins (United) and Brenna Combs (Abingdon-Avon) to replace all-conference setter Lexa Mahr, who graduated.
“Hopefully both of them will step up. They’re going to have to get up to speed quick,” Winkler said. “We lost a very good setter in Lexa Mahr, and those are some big shoes to fill. I have confidence they will, but it’s going to take some time to learn the game and learn our hitters.”
Winkler also has been impressed with the early play of freshman outside hitter McKenna Weaver (Limestone), who might be the team’s hardest hitter.
“I think there’s a level that McKenna doesn’t even know McKenna has,” Winkler said.
With 16-time reigning Arrowhead champion Kishwaukee not fielding a team this year, the race for the conference title may be more wide open than ever.
“That’s going to open up a door for everyone else that’s been fighting for second place the last 16 years,” Winkler said. “It’s going to be a battle. Hopefully at the end of the day when the dust settles, we’ll be right at the top, and I think we have the personnel to do it.”
Members of the 2014 Carl Sandburg College volleyball team are: Rachel Barr, Justine Bodenhamer, Brenna Combs, Cierra Hardrick, Andi Hendrix, Katie McGee, Megan Mixer, Jennifer Price, Ashley Reinbeck, Taylor Reusch, Sam Roth, Nikki Scott, Brea Simkins, Miranda Tharp, McKenna Weaver, Brooklyn Wexell, Madison Wherley. Head coach: Todd Winkler. Assistant coach: Rachel Kehr.