DETROIT, Mich. -- Second-year head coach Jamie Baker and assistant coach Breann Dotstry engineered a complete overhaul of the roster this offseason after losing four seniors at the conclusion of 2012. During the offseason, the pair revamped the roster by adding key freshmen and transfers to a solid group of returning talent that is poised to make a statement in 2013.
HALL OF LEADERSHIP
Despite adding a bevy of new talent, the coaching staff will rely on the leadership of senior captain Katharina Hall (Livonia, Mich./Henry Ford CC) to help the team mesh and build chemistry throughout the early portion of the campaign. Last season, Hall was second on the team in kills and was the top target in Baker's first year of leading the Mustangs.
"Kat [Hall] worked very hard during the offseason and is a solid leader for us," said Baker of her only returning senior. "As a senior, she realizes the responsibility that she faces and embraces the role with our younger players. She is a tremendous talent that will be a force for our team this season," added Baker.
Hall will be joined in captainship by newly named co-caption Alixandria Pappas (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Lakeview). Pappas, the lone sophomore on the roster this season, turned in a solid freshman campaign in 2012 with 161 kills and 52 blocks. The 52 block season placed Pappas just shy of the top-20 in the WHAC in total blocks.
Kiara Cobbs (Detroit, Mich./King) and Alyssa Kowalski (Wyandotte, Mich./Roosevelt) round out Baker's limited cast of returnees. Cobbs led the team in kills in 2012 with 258 and will be another top option this season. Kowalski, a junior middle blocker, fought through an injury-riddled season in 2012 after logging time in 22 of the team's 33 matches.
TRANSFERS TRANSFORM THE ROSTER
Of the nine new student-athletes, Baker was able to bring in plenty of collegiate playing experience by adding four transfers. NCAA Division I senior transfer Amelia Velez (Imlay City, Mich./Prairie View A&M) leads a very talented cast that includes junior twin transfers Kara Kempinski and Nicole Kempinski (Livonia, Mich./Schoolcraft), and Sarah Suppelsa (Livonia, Mich./Concordia-Ann Arbor) – a senior transfer.
All four transfers have enjoyed success at the high school and college level before landing at Marygrove to round out their careers. The skilled group all expect to play a big role for the Mustangs in 2013.
"We have a dynamic group of transfers on our roster this season," continued Baker. "All four transfers bring an exciting element to our game and have elevated competition in practice during the preseason. I can't wait to see the group in action this season," remarked Baker on her incoming experienced student-athletes.
FIVE FRESH FACES
Alyssa Adkins (Melvindale, Mich./Melvindale), Hayley Jury (Plymouth, Mich./Ladywood), Ashley Murphy (Southfield, Mich./Clarenceville), Molly Ralko (Dearborn, Mich./Crestwood), and Natalie Toth Watkins (Grosse Ile, Mich./Grosse Ile) make up the strong core of freshmen that are the future of Mustang Volleyball. All could see time this year as the Mustangs look to build off last year's mark of 10-23.
"Our freshmen will play a vital role for us this season," stated Baker. "It has been great coaching this group to begin the 2013 season. I look forward to continuing to develop our freshmen as they are the future of our program moving forward."
The 2012 season brought about plenty of great memories and tough competition for the Mustangs. Playing their season in the WHAC, the Mustangs went 0-11 in conference play despite taking a few teams to the distance in 2012. Playing against some of the nation's top NAIA squads in the WHAC, Coach Baker will look for her revamped roster to notch the program's first WHAC win and more this season.
The Mustangs open the season on the road Friday (Aug. 23) at the Indiana Northwest Tri-Match. The team will follow the Indiana tri with a couple of contests in Chicago, Ill., before heading home for a brief period of time. Over the upcoming holiday weekend, the Mustangs will make the program's first trip to the Sunshine State as they take part in the 2013 Florida Northwood Labor Day Volleyfest. The team kicks off WHAC play on the road with a tough test at Indiana Tech on Sept. 11 before opening their home slate against conference power, Madonna University, on Sept. 18.
All home matches will feature live audio and live stats via Stretch Internet. MarygroveMustangs.com and our social media channels will link any live feed offered by one of the Mustangs' opponents this season. GET CONNECTED WITH THE MUSTANGS: Facebook | Twitter | Score Updates & News Alerts