Experience is invaluable on a team that is ranked 24th in the nation and has been picked to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament this season.
Thankfully the Bulldogs have a setter and two middle hitters who have been sharing the court at Ewigleben’s Sports Arena for the last five years.
Ferris’ senior setter Samantha Fordyce, senior middle hitter Anne Sutton and senior outside hitter Aly Brecht redshirted together when they first arrived at Ferris State. The three contributed to over 100 sets on last season’s team that won the GLIAC championship. Each has competed in the conference tournament and NCAA Division II Regionals for the past four years.
“It is always great when you have been able to work with someone for a long time. Our communication during and after play has gotten a lot better,” Fordyce said. “We also know what can help improve our connection, so we are able to work together smoothly.”
While Fordyce acts as the offensive anchor, setting up Sutton, Brecht and the remaining hitters place the ball on the court beyond their opponents’ reach, her position relies on team chemistry. Without chemistry, Fordyce would feel like the team would be lacking communication and trust, two attributes that are crucial to Fordyce and the team’s success this season.
The Bulldogs’ head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhem is confident in her selection of Sutton as leader of the Bulldogs this season.
“Anne is an excellent leader for this team on and off the court. She sets and maintains high standards for herself and her teammates,” Brandel-Wilhelm said. “She works with her teammates individually to help each player be at their best.”
Last season, Sutton compiled a squad second-best kill total of 335 and maintained the best hitting percentage among players with over 100 sets played, .353-percent.
“Her aim is certainly perfection and that shows in how relentless she is in working to improve even though she is in her fifth year of college volleyball,” Brandel-Wilhelm said.
Sutton has improved her hitting percentage to .413 percent this season, which gives her the privilege of being ranked 11th in the nation in the statistic. Her hitting percentage has aided the Bulldogs’ ability to maintain their lead in hitting percentage in the conference at .272 percent.
“The efficiency of our offense shows how disciplined we are as a team,” Sutton said. “It’s one thing to be able to produce a lot of kills, but when our team is also very low error it makes us hard to beat.”
After spending five years at Ferris State, Sutton has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and is now pursuing an MBA. She will be working as part of the brand management team for Herman Miller this year.