Experience, experience, experience. This is definitely the strength for the 2003 NKU volleyball team.
The Norse, who finished with a 22-10 record last season, didn’t lose a single player to graduation. They hope to parlay that experience into a Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and a berth into the NCAA tournament.
The team comes into this season with a little more motivation then normal, after having their string of five straight GLVC championships snapped by Southern Indiana last year.
Head coach Carlos Chia enters his third season at the helm and expects to get his third straight winning season.
“Our really big strength would be our team cohesiveness,” said Chia.
“This group of girls has been together so long. That alone should lead to a lot of success on the court.”
The success is going to have to start with seniors Sara Taylor, Cammi Welter and Nicole Salisbury.
Taylor returns this season after leading the nation with 13.82 assists per game last year and being named first team All-Great Lakes Region.
Welter, who was also named first team All-Great Lakes Region last year, returns for her final go-round after compiling 395 kills and 83 blocks last season.
Salisbury is in her second year at NKU after transferring from Wayne State University, and put together some impressive numbers, in her first season, with team highs in kills, with 398, and digs, with 318.
“While the seniors will lead on the court,” said Chia, “this team understands every one else’s job, so the leadership role changes throughout the matches.”
Junior Kristin Koralewski also returns for her second season with the Norse. The former Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference freshman of the year, compiled 346 kills and 315 digs while leading the team with 46 service aces.
Fellow juniors Maggie Pugh and Amber Timmons also are expected to contribute for the Norse.
Chia has put together a what he calls a very talented sophomore class, anchored by middle-hitters Kaliana Kalache and Lynne Fischesser.
Those two combined for solid play off the bench last season, and are expected to be major contributors to this year’s squad. Julie Lewis and Marcela Cunha round out the sophomore class, and should see more playing time this season.
The lone freshman on the team is setter Andrea Lanham. Lanham, a 2003 graduate of Notre Dame Academy, was named Kentucky First-team All-State last season. Chia expects big things from her in the future.
“She is a wonderful talent,” said Chia. “She started this past weekend and really filled in well for Sara (Taylor).”
The Norse begin the season with one of the toughest schedules in recent seasons.
They traveled to Florida last weekend to take part in the University of North Florida Invitational Tournament, where they faced three teams ranked in the preseason top 25.
From there they move on to play in the Findlay Invitational. Then, they will host their own tournament on the weekend of Sept. 12-13.
The tournament has 18 teams taking part in 36 matches over two days. Chia believes that this tournament is going to be very big for the entire university, as it is going to attract hundreds to the campus for the weekend.
“We will be having players, coaches, parents and fans from 36 teams. It is going to be the largest volleyball tournament this season at any level,” said Chia.
The tournament will lead into GLVC play for the Norse. Chia believes that the experience gained from playing these tough teams will only help the Norse in the long run.
“We need to play these tougher teams in order to see what we need to improve,” said Chia.
“If we play a team that isn’t as talented as us and we beat them, then it doesn’t tell us anything about how good we really are.”