Watertown, Wis. -- Coming off of a successful title defense at the 2016 NCCAA DII National Tournament, the Sabercats approach 2017 with the same goal as last year: defend the national title.
Last year held a memorable ending for MBU, who repeated the remarkable feat of breezing through the national championship by winning every match in straight sets. That phenomenal run extended the Sabercats' unbeaten streak in NCCAA play to 27 straight matches - a showing that goes back to the NCCAA National Tournament in 2014.
Entering her 11th season, head coach Regina DeLozier is optimistic about a young Sabercats squad.
"We have many sophomores and several freshmen who hope to have a starting role," said DeLozier, who earned her 200th career win early last season. "Of course it is difficult to fill the shoes of a national player of the year, but our talent is in the team and we will do our best to bring together individual skills for team strength."
Junior Alexis (Johnson) Bueltel - an NCCAA DII All-America selection - and senior Katie Bender will lead the team as this year's captains. Bueltel ranked fifth in the AD3I last year in blocks per set (.60) and points per set (3.4) while Bender - an NCCAA National All-Tournament selection - finished second in the AD3I in total digs (553).
For the new faces this year, the Sabercats' rejuvenated JV program - led by Maranatha standout Torey Rosen - will be a prime opportunity.
"We have the ability to develop skills through our JV team," DeLozier noted. "Many of these ladies will gain much experience under the direction of JV Head Coach, Torey Rosen. With 20 freshman and sophomore players, we have seen much excitement for the varsity team." (Click here for a complete JV Schedule and JV Roster).
The Sabercats lose two seniors from the starting rotation: Alison (Renz) Crum and Julia (Gunst) Gibson finished their four-year MBU careers last season. Making anticipated returns to the regular rotation will be Katie Bender, Alexis (Johnson) Bueltel, Karley and Kelsey Johnson, and Madeline (Thompson) Suderman.
Maranatha will play six home matches in the regular season before hosting the NCCAA North Regional Tournament November 3-4. The regional champion will subsequently qualify for the NCCAA DII National Tournament, which will be held in November on the campus of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.
The last time the Sabercats hosted the Regional Tournament was in 2011, where they defeated Lincoln Christian 3-1 in the championship match.
The Sabercats will hit the ground running this season by making a return trip to Ankeny, Iowa and the Faith Baptist Bible College Spikefest Tournament. The Sabercats have traditionally opened the season with a sweep of the tournament and will look to repeat the feat when they open their matches Friday. The first match of the Spikefest will be played against Manhattan Christian at 2:00 p.m.
For further details on the Spikefest tournament and the rest of the 2017 schedule, click here.