WATERTOWN, Wis. -- Year two for Sabercats Men's Volleyball saw a young and inexperienced team put down another layer of the foundation for the program. And it was anything but an easy season.
After losing over half of the squad from a season before, the Sabercats were up against it going into their second season as a varsity program. As the "new kids on the block", this group had to hold their own against established programs in the Midwest Region - a region that holds four of the top 15 programs in the NCAA DIII.
Not only that, but the Sabercats had to go head-to-head with scholarship athletes at the NAIA and NCCAA DI levels at the NCCAA National Invitational - an event that MBU competed at for the first time. While they went away empty-handed from the tournament, the Sabercats had earned some valuable national-level experience and will look to capitalize on a return trip next season.
A final challenge the Sabercats faced was shuffling their lineup. With key roles left vacant, the Sabercats had some student-athletes adjust their roles. Taylor Dafoe was the setter in a 5-1 rotation; Steve Wagner took over for Joel DePue in the libero position; Joel Smith supported the Sabercats' attack in an increased role from last year; and Rory Massey, James Rossiter, and Isaac McKee rounded out the attack behind Derek Wallis, who wrapped up his Blue and Gold career this season.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS and AWARDS
So their schedule was challenging.
And the Sabercats had to battle through the season and stay positive when the results didn't come.
Their resilience and determination paid off in early March, however, when they took a four-set home win off of North Park University. Wallis put down a career-best 23 kills that night while hitting .553. The hard work had paid off in terms of results.
Besides the win against North Park, the Sabercats had some team awards to celebrate at the end of the year:
Statistical Award: Derek Wallis (Team-best 221 Kills and 148 Digs, 488 Career Kills, 320 Career Digs)
Statistical Award: Taylor Dafoe (480 Assists)
Iron-Sharpening-Iron: Joel Smith
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: James Rossiter
A FORWARD LOOK
The team will have some big shoes to fill with the loss of Derek Wallis, who leads the program with 488 career kills. Not only that, but Wallis has been with the team for the last four seasons, competing at both the club and the varsity levels.
But as the squad prepares for their third season, most of their starting rotation still has eligibility.
What this team could accomplish in the future remains to be seen.
FROM COACH ROSEN
"[The team] had a mindset of never giving up," said head coach Torey Rosen. "We affectionately called ourselves the 'third-set team' as we would still give teams hard-fought sets up until the last point and even came back to win several third sets. And even though we ran into difficulties with opponents and our own limited personnel, they worked at staying together as a team and striving to keep each other motivated and improving.
"As we - disappointingly - took a few steps backward from the progress we made last season, this group achieved growth in several areas. Each player was able to show personal improvement in their game which will definitely be valuable in future seasons.
"Knowing it was my last season with the program, it was just special to have this specific group of guys who worked hard and had great attitudes day in and day out no matter what the circumstances. And as always, having another experience coaching a season with my mom was also memorable as we work well together and balance each other out so well."