High expectations have become the norm for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Volleyball Team after deep-tournament runs the last two seasons, and head coach Abbey Sutherland has those same expectations for her team this year.
“We’re returning a lot of people. We have that work-hard mentality, and we know what it takes to be successful now . We are motivated so it is nice to have that piece going for us,” Sutherland said.
Even with a lot of players returning, the Pointers will lose Sarah Breuer and Alexis Hartman, two key players from last year’s National Runner-Up team. Replacing them has been one of the big stories for the Pointers’ early season and is something coach Sutherland wants to address.
“We have a couple people in key new positions who have to step up. I think we have a lot of potential to get better every single day throughout the year,” Sutherland said. “We have multiple people competing for some important positions including setter, and we try to put them in stressful positions and take charge right away.”
New leaders Hannah Picel and Emma Brunkhorst are set to replace Breuer and Hartman. Picel and Brunkhorst are the only two seniors on the team and will be a key component to the development of the Pointers’ new look .
“For me, this is my first year as a captain so I will have to step up even more than I did in previous years as both a teammate and a leader,” Picel said. “Sarah and Alexis taught us a lot about what we need to do this year to help our team be successful, and I think there will be many times where I will use what they taught me with this year’s team.”
Coach Sutherland is relying on Picel and Brunkhorst to take on the job as team leaders, much like the seniors of years’ past have done before them.
“I expect the same things from them on the court as I have in the past. It will be off the court that I will be asking them to do a little more, which is a little different role for them, but they have done a fantastic job so far,” Sutherland said.
Coach Sutherland has instilled a specific theme of individually getting better every day as well as stressing not only sportsmanship on the court, but treating opponents and others with respect off the court. This message has become a staple in the program, relayed through all players.
“I just focus on getting better every day. I think being close with your teammates and doing things the right way is a main reason we do well,” Brunkhorst said. “I hope the younger players feel the same way and continue to make their teammates feel like a second family.”
After coming so close to being the last team standing over the past two years, the goal for the upcoming season is clear for the Pointers.
“I would really like to take home the National Championship at the end of the year,” Picel said.
The Pointers, coming off an undefeated weekend at the UWSP Invitational, will take the court again Oct. 16 at home in the UWSP Quad.