Home Local Sports VUVB quest for Region 24 three-peat begins tomorrow

VUVB quest for Region 24 three-peat begins tomorrow

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VINCENNES, Ind. – The 2023-24 Vincennes University athletic season begins tomorrow, Tuesday, August 22 when the Vincennes University volleyball team plays host to Shawnee Community College at the Physical Education Complex at 6:30 p.m. eastern.

The Trailblazer volleyball program is looking to win their third straight Region 24 Championship and is currently riding a 24-match winning streak against Region 24 opponents.

Vincennes has already gotten off to a hot start to the 2023 campaign, winning 16 of 18 sets in VU’s four preseason scrimmages.

The reloaded 2023 VUVB team comes in with eight newcomers to the team, starting with three international athletes, Isadora Dias (Rio Grande de Norte, Brazil), Elisa Dalla Pozza (Vincenza, Italy) and Laura Tavares (Merida, Venezuela).

The 2023 recruiting class also brought in Grace Flexter (Oblong, Ill.) and Allison Czyzewski (Louisville, Ill.) from nearby in Illinois and Dylan DeCoursey (Montgomery, ind.), Libby Mehringer (Jasper, Ind.) and Ellie Reed (Washington, Ind.) from Indiana.

“Overall, as a team, we are very long and athletic,” Sien said. “With the international players, due to the substitution limits the players are not as specialized like the players are in this country. Overseas, internationally, they play and they don’t really leave the court, so their skills all around are very consistent and have been very well trained.”

“Definitely want to mention Laura,” Sien added. “Talk about somebody being athletic. She’s pretty much the cliché of a player jumping out of the gym. There are times when she jumps and hits the ball, it seems like she’s still ascending. She didn’t have as many opportunities to play in Venezuela because of the economic and government situation over there right now, so she had to train on her own a lot to get to this level.”

“Elisa comes in with some experience having train with the Junior National Team in Italy,” Sien said. “She is your prototypical middle hitter one. She hits in front of the setter, behind the setter and really her best set to hit is behind the setter. For now, she’s a serving middle that also plays defense because she has very good ball handling and first contact skills.”

“Isadora is another nice all around player that can not only play multiple positions, but plays multiple positions well,” Sien added. “This preseason we’ve put her in a couple of different positions and it seemed like there was no drop off. She has a lot of range. She is able to hit as a middle or a right-side hitter. She is very comfortable moving around the net and hitting a bunch of different sets.”

“Then you have Libby who is coming off of a really difficult injury after missing a year,” Sien said. “She looks really good in terms of mobility and jumping ability. She’s one of our new setters, so she’s learning this high-level type of setting in our fast offense. She also had some opportunities in practice to hit and play some front row and she’s really swinging really well too.”

“Dylan comes in after playing for probably the best high school program in the area,” Sien added. “Multiple state championships and all of the pressures that come from that. Just like Libby, she’s learning a whole new concept of setting with the fast offense and making good choices. Then for both new setters, playing good defense. We do require our setters to play defense because we don’t want any weak spots. So the challenge for them, as well as any of our setters, is to play that right back defensively well. They have done a really good job of that. I think now they are getting used to the level where they want to be at. Plenty of work still to be done for sure, but I think they are starting to feel a little more comfortable running this offense.”

“Allison is a very athletic player who shows a lot of potential coming in,” Sien said. “Her ceiling is very high and we have really liked how well she has responded to getting back into training for volleyball. We are looking at her in multiple positions.”

“Grace comes in from the same club program as 2021 Region 24 Player of the Year Grace Earp (Mattoon, Ill.),” Sien added. “She was very well coached and along with Morgan is one of our two Val/Sal Scholarship athletes, so we know that she is going to take care of business in the classroom as well on the court. But she will even be challenged with different things in her position as a defensive specialist or a libero this year. We really want her to be more comfortable using her hands, which is a skill that most high schools and clubs don’t teach. She comes in with really good coaching, quickness and really nice technique and platform. I thought she has played extremely well this preseason. She’s another one of those type of back row players that we like to produce here.”

“Ellie is a recent addition to the team who has been a hitter pretty much her whole life and I don’t think she’s played a lot of back row, but she has some back row skills,” Sien said. “She’s taken to instruction really well since coming in and is someone who is going to be contributing to the team in all kinds of different areas. So far, this whole freshman group has just been wonderful. Their motivation. Their drive. Their attitude. Because we’ve had a very hard practice schedule. But I’d say we are a bit ahead of where I thought we would be in a number of areas.”

The 2023 recruiting class will have some big shoes to fill this season, looking to replace graduating sophomores Josephine Mulligan (Saint John, Ind.) who will play at Keiser University this season, Lara Gomes de Castro (Sao Paulo, Brazil) at Union College and Malgorzata Banasiak (Gdynia, Poland) who will play at Florida Memorial University this season, as well as Kaley Roush (Shoals, Ind.) and two-time First Team All-Region 24 honoree Hannah Graber (Montgomery, Ind.) who will both be returning to VU to finish their nursing degrees.

The Trailblazers also welcome back five returning sophomores who will look to have a major impact on this upcoming season.

Kennedy Sowell (Effingham, Ill.), Maecy Johnson (Chrisman, Ill.), Audrey Buis (Franklin, Ind.), 2023 First Team All-Region 24 honoree Morgan Netcott (Montague, Mich.) and 2023 Region 24 Player of the Year Paige Parlanti (Las Vegas, Nev.) will look to defend their Region 24 crown for another season.

“These sophomores are an excellent core group,” Sien said. “The leadership potential that they have is going to be just as important, if not more important, than the playing ability that they do bring back. They have brought up thinks to do and things to look out for that’s even not volleyball. When you have a good sophomore group that really takes that leadership role seriously, you are going to go far.”

“Playing wise, we bring back maybe a couple less than we thought we would this year,” Sien added. “But this is still a very valuable group in terms of experience. All five played quite a bit last year. We are bringing back a lot of in game experience this season.”

“Kennedy is our only returning middle,” Sien said. “She is able to run the slide approach really well and is really able to lead by example in that position.”

“Morgan, who is not only a returning All-Region player as a libero, but she was also an Academic All-American and was the top Psychology student at VU last year,” Sien added. “We have Audrey coming back, who probably should have been named to the All-Region team last year.”

“Then you have Maecy, who could end up being the biggest sleeper in the entire Region this season,” Sien said. “Someone who played behind two very experienced setters last year. She was someone who was invaluable last season when we had somebody out, because she could step in at multiple positions. She had a great spring season and she gained a lot of great experience running the offense. She could have a lot of teams saying, ‘wow, we don’t remember her’ just because she was playing behind two experienced setters last year. She’s still learning but she’s very coachable.”

“Then we have Paige coming back,” Sien added. “Someone who could be one of the best all-around players in the nation. Someone who can ball control with the very best of them, as well as being a next level hitter. Even though she didn’t make the NJCAA All-American team last year, she was named a VolleyballMag.com All-American last season. Plus, she’s the returning Region Player of the Year, so she’s got that big target on her back. But she and the rest of this sophomore group have performed very well this preseason.”

“Honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better group of returners,” Sien said. “In terms of their experience level and their leadership.”

The Trailblazers have a busy start to their season this week, with three Region 24 matches in five days starting with the 2023 season opener against Shawnee Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m. eastern.

VU will then travel to nearby Robinson, Ill. on Thursday, Aug. 24 to take on Region 24 opponent Lincoln Trail College at 7 p.m. eastern, before closing out the week back at the P.E. Complex when VU hosts a tri-match with Region 24 opponent Lake Land College and Ancilla College Saturday, Aug. 26.

Vincennes will begin the day Saturday taking on Lake Land College at 10 a.m. eastern, before returning to the floor to face Ancilla College at 2 p.m. eastern.

“Players have to come in with that particular motivation, desire and drive if we want to win the Region again this year,” Sien said. “I can do my best to teach the volleyball side of things, but I can’t coach those aspects. They have really talked about it the entire time that really our top goal is to get that Region title over here again and start to make it like it’s a habit. Get to where every year that’s not only something that we strive for, but it’s something that we are just going to go ahead and get it.”

“Our goal every year since moving up to Division I is to advance to the District Tournament and of course win it and go to Nationals,” Sien added. “It seems like the past few years we’ve had the potential to go to Nationals, but is this going to be the team that finally breaks through and gets that. My challenge every year is to say, ‘Are you going to be the group that gets to say we were the first team at Vincennes University to break through and make the National Tournament at the Division I level.’ Talk about leaving your mark on the history of a program.”

“Whether we get there or not, that’s something that the players have to have the desire to do,” Sien said. “You know what they say, if winning was easy then everybody would do it. So in order to win, it comes at a cost and they are going to have to have that drive and motivation to get past that and make sure that nothing or no one is going to stop them.”