Storm volleyball shows no fear at NYU invite

Storm volleyball shows no fear at NYU invite

by Bryan GeelanSports Editor

Despite a roster with numerous underclassmen, the 2007 Simpson volleyball team has jumped out to a 5-0 record and has already knocked off a nationally ranked opponent.

Simpson swept the New York University Labor Day Invitational, including a 3-0 victory in the championship game over the number 20 NYU Violets.

For a team that doesn’t have a single senior on the roster and only two juniors, taking such an inexperienced team to New York may have been a concern. However, the team handled the challenge in stride.

“Being young, there was no baggage with these girls,” Head Volleyball Coach Lana Smith said. “They were thinking, ‘NYU who?’ It didn’t matter to them.”

The young team may also have been somewhat na’ve toward playing in unfamiliar territory against high-caliber opponents.

“I didn’t think about the competition,” sophomore middle hitter Whitney Oviatt said. “It felt to me like we were playing anywhere else.”

Junior middle hitter Jayna Fishbach was all too familiar with her surroundings while playing on the Violets’ home floor.

Fischbach, who is also a member of the Storm basketball team, took the trip to New York last season when Simpson was ousted by NYU in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament.

“It was funny because the first day we came in for practice, their basketball girls had a pick-up game right before us,” Fischbach said. “I walked in right next to all of them and gave them a death stare.”

The 2007 squad has the tall task of replacing several key players from the team that tied for the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title a year ago.

Tiffany Everding, Jessica Martin and Janay Michel have graduated, while Erika Amfahr has been lost for the season due to the injuries she sustained in a car accident last winter. Between the four, they accounted for over 75 percent of the team’s kills and over half of the service aces and digs.

“You can’t replace people like that, but you can start something new,” Fischbach said.

Fischbach is one of only three returning letter winners who saw action in more than 10 matches a year ago. Another one of those players is sophomore setter Tara Christensen, who was a second team all-conference performer last season.

“She has a lot of tools to offer,” Smith said. “She’s one of the best setters in our region.”

For her efforts in New York, Christensen was named MVP of the NYU Labor Day Invitational. After that, the IIAC recognized her as the Female Athlete of the Week for the period ending Sept. 2.

With only a few players returning, Simpson is relying on several underclassmen to step up into key roles. Oviatt is one such player who has made the jump after seeing only limited junior varsity action a year ago is

“Whitney came in ready to go,” said Fischbach. “You can tell she put a lot of work in over the summer.”

Oviatt currently leads the team in kills (48). For her, the key to success is to continue to improve throughout the season.

“We want to get better every game, and so far I’ve think we’ve done that,” Oviatt said. “We still have a long way to go.”