The Midland University volleyball team has high expectations, no matter what.
That was evident during MU’s recent spring practices. While some teams might mope about losing three starters, including two All-Americans, from a 2018 Final Four squad, the Lady Warriors look at it as an opportunity.
“We have a lot of potential with girls stepping into different roles,” said Midland outside hitter Taylor Petersen, a returning starter. “It is super exciting to see how everyone is handling that.”
Petersen had a team-high 14 kills in the Lady Warriors’ four-set loss to eventual national champion Park University in the NAIA semifinals. Gone from that team, however, is setter Jessica Peters and middle blocker Priscilla O’Dowd. Both were four-time All-Americans. Also gone is Jenny Bair, a three-year starter at outside hitter, and four other seniors.
Peters and O’Dowd’s names are peppered around the Midland record book while Bair was also a valuable contributor and leader.
“I was super lucky that I got three years with them,” said Petersen, who is one of the captains for the Lady Warriors. “I think they were natural leaders and they taught me a lot about the leadership role I was stepping into. What they did, didn’t leave her in December when they were done. They’ve left a legacy that is really important for the upcoming year.”
The Lady Warriors completed their spring workouts on Tuesday. While veterans like Petersen, right side hitter Maggie Hiatt, middle blocker Sydney Morehouse and outside hitter Brooke Fredrickson return, no job is safe.
“I can tell you that we have a lot of competition on this team,” said Petersen, a former Auburn High School standout. “Every single girl knows it will be a grind to get on the court and just because you played last year doesn’t mean anything heading into this season. I think everyone has done a good job of recognizing that and preparing themselves in the weight room and working hard to get on the court.”
Midland coach Paul Giesselmann added a talented recruiting class that includes setter Hope Leimbach of Lincoln Lutheran, Bree Burtwistle of Stanton and Maddie Wieseler of Hartington Cedar Catholic. MU is also welcoming Taliyah Flores, who earned All-Summit League freshman honors last year at North Dakota. The Papillion-La Vista South graduate will enroll in August
Petersen said the Lady Warriors have had the opportunity to play with some of the newcomers.
“The chemistry isn’t quite there yet because we haven’t played much together,” she said. “But they are fun to play with.”
Petersen gives campus tours so she has met some of the newcomers in a different capacity.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing these girls on a different level and getting to welcome them to Midland,” she said. “They are great girls that I think will be a huge asset to the program. As in years past, we’ll just be the family that we always are.”
That family is expected to get a boost with the return of right side/outside hitter Shelby Bretschneider. The Pierce native missed all of last season due to a knee injury. She is one of the team’s captains.
“She has been so impressive,” Petersen said. “She works so hard and is doing extra work on the sideline trying to get in the swing of things. I have no doubt she’ll be good to go when August rolls around.”