Volleyball setting up for better spike in 2012

Written by: Parker Perry

The University of Akron Volleyball team comes into the season hungry.

“Starting in January the girls made it a point that they were going to work harder than anybody else,” said fifth year head coach Ron Arenz about his squad after a disappointing 2011 campaign.

“Huge Disappointment,” Arenz corrected when asked about it.

The 2011 version of the squad came in with high hopes that year would be the year they traveled deep into the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Instead what they got was many injuries, a slow conference start and a final record of 4-25.

This year, Arenz seems confident that things will be different. Though he admits that there is nothing he or anyone else can do to prevent injuries, he says that last year’s schedule was ambitious and this season him and his staff has decided to lower the bar to give his team some confidence heading into conference play.

“Last year’s schedule was very ambitious because two years ago we had a successful season in terms of making moves in the conference,” said Arenz “but as in terms of growth (the injuries) allowed other players to step up, get some playing time, get some experience and I think it will bode well for us this year.”

One of the key injuries that he spoke about was the loss of then senior Tina Dimitrijevs. Dimitrijevs went down ten games into the season. Her loss caused many players to have to shift positions and learn new spots on the floor, which often times caused chaos and poor execution. That is something that Arenz wants to be established when entering conference play this season.

“…When we hit conference, we’re looking for players to solidify their spot on the court. We’re looking for groups of players to establish the type of chemistry you want, to keep balls alive and so forth,” Arenz said.

Last season may not have been a success for the Zips, but for the Mid-American Conference overall it was wildly successful. Four teams, Ball State, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, made the NCAA tournament. It was the first time the MAC had so many teams participate. Amazingly enough that did not include the previous back-to-back MAC champs Ohio University, Arenz said that the MAC ranked seventh in the nation when it comes to best volleyball conferences last year, and he thinks that it could even get into the top four if the success continues.

“I tell you what; being a Mid Major conference…we finished seventh in the country. Now you’re talking about big conference…we are on the heels of those guys. I always felt like the MAC was the little brother so to speak. Swinging away and every now and then we’re going to hit them. We are right there on their heels,” said Arenz.

This season the Zips want to be a part of one of those teams that make it to the big dance and help the conference to continue to evolve. To do so they will rely on their seniors for leadership.

The Zips return four true-seniors and Dimitrijevs who received a fifth year due to being out most of last year. Akron only lost one player from last year, and experience should be on their side.

Akron opens up their season on the road. They will play UNC Ashville, East Tennessee State, Temple and South Carolina at the South Carolina Gamecock Invitational that will take place the weekend of Friday the 24th. They will host two tournaments on their own. The first one starts on Friday the 31st and continuing that weekend. The next starts the weekend after.

Even after the huge disappointment of 2011, spirits are still high in the Zips volleyball locker room.