2012 Volleyball season preview
Thursday, August 30, 2012
2012 Volleyball season preview

The Bemidji State University volleyball team will look to improve off a 6-22 season 2011 campaign in 2012, including a 3-17 ledger in NSIC play. Head coach Wayne Chadwick enters his third season as the team’s head coach after leading the Beavers to their highest win total since 2003 two years ago in his first year at BSU.

The 2012 edition of the Beaver volleyball team will try to replace two key members from last year’s team in starting setter Jessi-Beth McCannell, who posted 740 assists, as well as starting middle blocker and right side hitter Kimberly Hacker, who was second on the team with 52 total blocks and third with 176 kills.

Highlighted among the team’s returnees are senior captain Bethany Thompson (OH, Owatonna, Minn.), who led last year’s squad with 294 kills and 328.5 points and was second on the team with 245 digs, and sophomore Rachel Craig (MB, Wadena, Minn.). Craig paced the 2011 Beavers with 56 blocks and was named Bemidji State’s 2011-12 Female Newcomer of the Year. Both Thompson and Craig started all 28 matches.

This year’s team will be a young one—it features six freshmen and six sophomores and will have an average age of 19.3 as of Aug. 31, when it plays its first match. Aside from Thompson, junior Halee Staskivige (DS, Northwood, N.D.) is the team’s only other upperclassman. Straskivige returns after sitting out the 2011 season.

Despite the team’s youth, there is still a lot of experience coming back. The team returns eight letterwinners from a year ago, six of which started at least one match. Last year’s team returned only four players from 2010.

As it has been in years past, Bemidji State’s schedule will be a difficult one. The Beavers have seven opponents included in the AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll on the docket in 2012, including five teams from the NSIC.

During the course of the season, the Beavers will travel to No. 23 Minnesota State, seventh-ranked 2012 NSIC regular season co-champion Minnesota Duluth, and top-ranked five-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul. BSU will host No. 6 Southwest Minnesota State and 12th-ranked Wayne State. Also included in the NSIC portion of the schedule will be conference newcomers Minot State and Sioux Falls. BSU is 7-0 all-time against those schools and defeated them both in 2011.

The Beavers will begin the season by playing in the Pittsburg State Gorilla Classic and the Duluth Volleyball Classic tournaments. The tournaments will see BSU play in seven matches in nine days against teams from six different states.

Position-by-Position Breakdown:
Courtney Volkmann (So., Wadena, Minn.)
Ashley Kiecker (Fr., Hector, Minn.)

One of the major voids that will need replacing from last year’s team is at setter, where the Beavers lost 2011 senior starter Jessi-Beth McCannell, who graduated with the ninth-most career assists in program history with 1,806. Sophomore Courtney Volkmann will look to take the reigns at the position after posting 122 assists as a freshman. The native of Wadena, Minn. started 11 times last year and saw playing time in every match. Freshman Ashley Kiecker, who amassed 1,395 career assists at Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart High School, will also compete for playing time.

Outside Hitters:
Bethany Thompson (Sr., Owatonna, Minn.)
Kelsi Crawford (So., Wadena, Minn.)
Kelly Niles (So., Grand Rapids, Minn.)
Kristen Thingvold (So., Crystal, Minn.)
Molly Monahan (Fr., Hutchinson, Minn.)
Alexandra Peterson (Fr., Harmony, Minn.)

Though the Beavers will lose a good attacking option in Kimberly Hacker, the team will bring back its top two players in kills from 2011. Senior Bethany Thompson led the way last year with 294 kills and 328.5 total points last season. Behind Thompson, who will be looked to for a solid all-around game this year, was then-freshman Kelsi Crawford, who will look to build on a solid 203-kill freshman season. Returning sophomore Kelly Niles will also look to surpass her freshman attacking totals after she made 124 kills in 17 starts last year. Fellow sophomore and 2011 BSU Volleyball Most Improved Player Kristen Thingvold and freshmen Alex Peterson and Molly Monahan will also be working to see game action.

Middle Blockers:
Rachel Craig (So., Wadena, Minn.)
Chelsea Frison (Fr., Whitewater, Wis.)

Bemidji State’s front court looks to be in good shape for 2012. Rachel Craig, BSU’s leader in solo blocks and total blocks from last season will look to improve in her sophomore campaign alongside incoming freshman Chelsea Frison, who is coming off an impressive senior season in which she registered 392 kills, 145 total blocks, 185 digs and 67 service aces at Whitewater High School in Wisconsin. Both middle hitters are expected to play large roles immediately.

Elissa Christensen (So., Montevideo, Minn.)

BSU’s volleyball team has many solid defensive options, but sophomore Elissa Christensen will be looked at to lead the way as the team’s libero. Christensen saw time in all 28 matches and in 90 of 92 sets in her first season in 2011, leading the squad with 21 service aces and finishing third on the team with 223 digs.

Defensive Specialists:
Elissa Christensen (So., Montevideo, Minn.)
Halee Staskivige (Jr., Northwood, N.D.)
Courtney Fox (Fr., Hutchinson, Minn.)
Kayla DeJong (Fr., Jefferson, Wis.)

The Beavers’ back line will welcome back some familiar faces and will include two newcomers. In addition to libero Elissa Christensen, speedy junior Halee Staskivige will vie for time after winning the team’s most improved player award as a freshman in 2010. Newcomers Courtney Fox and Kayla DeJong, the youngest member of the squad, will add to a deep, ball-controlling defensive core after successful high school and club careers. 

Coaching Changes:
New to this year’s volleyball coaching staff is Elaina Kakatolis, who will serve as Chadwick’s assistant coach. Kakatolis, the first full-time assistant coach in program history, comes to BSU following two years as Northwestern State University’s graduate assistant coach.

Prior to her stint with the Demons, Kakatolis played Division I volleyball at Ball State, where she was the team’s captain for two years.

Joining Kakatolis will be Nicole Solum, who returns to the role of graduate assistant coach this season after transitioning to the position following the end of her playing career at BSU the year before. Solum was a captain and accomplished right side hitter as a Beaver after transferring from junior college in Washington.