Youthful Bulldogs prepare under experienced head coach

The Ferris State women’s volleyball team is only months removed from finishing a game against the conference champions from Northwood.

The finish left the returning team hungry, and they’ve been preparing to take on the Timberwolves in their conference opener on Sept. 20.

“They’re a great team with some really great people,” Ferris redshirt middle hitter freshman Caroline Heitzman said. “So it will be a pretty important and exciting game to start the regular season with.”

As the team prepares for the 2013 campaign, the Bulldogs will be in the familiar and successful hands of head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm, who enters her 18th year at the helm.

The team will need her expertise, as they have a younger make-up than a season ago, but may well be more athletic than in years past.

“Coach Tia recruits athletic players with a history of performing well during games,” Ferris junior middle hitter Angi Kent said. “In my opinion, we are the most athletic team in our conference.”

Kent, of Lansing, will be a vocal and experienced leader on a young team. Kent has confidence and a bold opinion of the 2013 squad.

“I expect to dominate our conference,” Kent said.

With confidence radiating from their team leaders, the expectations for the team that last year went 16-2 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference remain high.

Ferris outside hitter junior Courtney Rehm has a more reserved confidence. Rehm enters her second season after posting an average of 2.34 kills per set as a freshman. Even with the success of her first season in mind, the Portage native is preparing as though she was disappointed with the result of her first season.

“This next week is our last week of summer conditioning,” Rehm said Aug. 10. “It’s a lot of cardio and strengthening.”

The conditioning has kept the team close even outside of its regular season, and those who haven’t been around are sorely missing their teammates.

“During the summer it’s a little easier for me since I don’t have to get up at 5 a.m. to get buff,” Kent said. “But I do miss working out with my teammates.”

One of the biggest reasons the team’s expectations remain so high is the brains behind the brawn, the experience behind the youth that makes freshmen seem like seasoned veterans of the college circuit.

“We are a determined team with big goals,” Heitzman said. “Which is great until we begin to overlook the small, little, every day details that need to be constantly refined in order to achieve our big goals.”

The Bulldogs are poised to be a conference power, the likes of which the seasoned Brandel-Wilhelm may be seeing for the first time in her near two decades at the helm.