Triumphs in the 2021 Tournament

Bulldog Volleyball had a great start to their season this weekend at their annual invitational at home.

After four games this weekend, the Bulldogs took away three wins and closed with one loss. 

Senior Katie O’Connell, who has been awarded All-American honor for the past two seasons in 2018 and 2019, shared a few words on what this weekend was like.

“It was great to be back playing in our gym with the fans. It’s been a while since we were able to have spectators, so the energy in the gym was so exciting for us.” 

During the game on Thursday against Tiffin, the team set the momentum for the weekend and won 3-0 with games of 25-14, 25-10 and 25-17. Both O’Connell and Junior Sam Hermann scored 8 digs each during this game.

“We didn’t have a lot of information, so we made changes as the game went on and that was a challenge we executed well,” O’Connell said.

After missing a season due to Covid-19, the team has been practicing for almost a year waiting to compete again.

“The most rewarding [part] was just seeing the last couple weeks of practice and months of work in action during a game,” O’Connell said. 

The team played again Friday afternoon and won against Saint Leo University 3-1.

“Everyone on this team has put in work, and it was rewarding to see everyone get better on the court and just have fun,” O’Connell said.

During this game, Libero Nina Gorgijevska racked up 18 digs for the Bulldogs and O’Connell racked up 14 digs. O’Connell spent quite a bit of time on the court this weekend and played all three sets. During the match against Missouri-St. Louis, O’Connell scored a total of 18 kills.

“I think the most challenging part was just adapting to the other side of the net,” O’Connell said.

“This team has just bought in at all levels. We are all committed to helping the team be the best it can be, while also working to be the best versions of themselves. It’s great to have that standard in the gym and have the balance of relationships and volleyball,” O’Connell said.

The team is coached by Tia Brandel-Wilhem, who has led the team for the past 25 years, and assistant Hannah Wuest, who is in her second year with the team. The faces of this team have changed since they last played in 2019. Some of these new faces include Claire Nowicki, Keona Salesman, Kaylee Maat, Leah Bylut, Hannah Tecumseh, Grace Fath, Connie LeBel, Syann Fairfield, Jessica Lefler, Tatum Outlaw and Olivia Henneman-Dallape. 

During the game versus Missouri-St. Louis, Freshmen Nowicki, Salesman, Maat and Bylut played all three sets. Salesman had a total of nine kills, while Maat contributed 20 digs.

“We might be young, considering a lot of people haven’t experienced a normal season, but I think the underclassmen are so talented and they have a strong volleyball IQ,” O’Connell said. 

Finally, the team lost in a match to Winona State, another nationally pre-ranked team like Ferris, from Minnesota in 3-1. The record for this match was 25-10, 16-25, 25-22 and 25-20. Both players and coaches left this match ready to play again.

“We have some big goals for the season for volleyball, and a lot of it just has to do with building a championship culture in all that we do,” O’Connell said. 

The Bulldogs will play again on Sept. 9 at the University of Texas-Tyler.