Michigan Tech Volleyball Opens New Chapter
HOUGHTON, Mich. - Change will be the name of the game for the
2012 Michigan Tech volleyball team.
The changes start at the top with new head coach Matt Jennings. The Chicago native joins the Huskies after spending the previous three seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Div. I Pittsburgh of the Big East Conference. He worked as an assistant coach at both DePaul and Eastern Kentucky, and served as the head men’s volleyball coach at NAIA St. Ambrose for four seasons. While in Pittsburgh, Jennings also served as head coach of the premier teams at Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Association for three years.
Assisting Jennings will be assistant coach Nicasio Paquiz Jr. who also has Div. I coaching experience working at Green Bay and with Jennings at DePaul. Paquiz comes to Houghton from 1st Alliance Volleyball Club on Chicago’s south-side.
The team returns a trio of setters with game experience in senior Skylar Paffenroth, junior Madeline Haben and sophomore Ciara Sebelius. Paffenroth and Sebelius shared the setting duties last year each tallying over 350 assists. Haben, who redshirted last season, handled the bulk of the setting duties in 2010 finishing with 671 assists. Haben, a captain along with Paffenroth and Kero, is slated to lead the Husky offensive this season as the starting setter.
Junior co-captain Jordanna Kero returns at outside hitter after leading the team in kills. The Hancock, Mich., native added 109 digs and 25 blocks to go along with her 167 kills.
Joining Kero in the front row are sophomores Shelby Jones, Kienna Sharp, and Andria Nyenhuis. The trio combined for 307 kills and 79 blocks. Nyenhuis, from Gladstone, Mich., ranked second on the team in service aces (22) and tied for the team-lead with 36 blocks. Sharp will provide depth at the front row after recording 72 kills and 31 blocks second most on the team last season.
The team welcomes three freshmen to the front row, Janelle Rupkalvis, Sylvie Rokosh and Aubrey Havlichek. Rupkalvis joined the team during the 2012 spring semester after a standout career at Andover, Minn., and Havlichek hales from Thornton, Colo. Rokosh, who hails from Calgary, Alberta, will be the tallest player on the team at 6-2. Havlichek and Rokosh should provide instant productivity to the Huskies net game on the right side and in the middle.
Tessa Mauer (Littleton, Colo.) saw extensive time in the line-up at both libero and defensive specialist. Mauer led the team in both digs (231) and service aces (30). The Huskies’ utility player will be Abby DeWitt, who will add balance to the back-court as well as the left and right side attack. Sophomore Lisa Diduch will provide additional ball-control & defense, as well.
A pair of freshmen will add talent and depth in the back row. Jacqueline Aird joins the Huskies after a stellar career at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago and an All-American caliber club experience at 1st Alliance, one of the premier programs in the U.S. Aird is slated to start at libero at the outset. Sarah Rasmussen comes to Tech via Chanhassen, Minn. having been part of successful programs in high school and with M1, a regional powerhouse club team.
“We’ve been working hard since March to set the tone for the rebirth of our program,” said Jennings. “I’m optimistic that we’re on the right path given the dedication and trust put forth by this group. I am very proud of the way the team has come together so far. We have a lot of work to do to get where we all want to be, but I have no doubt that coach Paquiz and I have the right group to get this started.”
The Huskies will open the season Aug. 31 at the Indiana (Pa.) Tournament. The team will make its home debut Sept. 29 against Wayne State.