Volleyball team looks for spike in wins

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Ashley Wagner serves against Spring Arbor on Sept. 16. The Pilots lost in five sets. (Photo by Keith Cooper)
In the ever competitive Mid-Central Conference the Bethel volleyball team is holding its own. The team is 2-2 in the conference and is now 11-10 overall. The Pilots most recently played in the Mount Vernon Nazarene University Invitational on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 in Mount Vernon, Ohio. They won two games on the first day of action, beating Bryan College and Roberts Wesleyan College. But then the Pilots dropped two on the next day, losing to Mount Vernon Nazarene and Walsh University. Going into every season coach Julia Reininga sets a couple of goals that she expects the team to reach. This year was no different. She expects the team to win the conference and compete at the national level in the NAIA. She also wants to see growth from her players on and off the court. With a team loaded with senior leadership and some talented young players those goals remain realistic. The Pilots opened the year with three wins and two losses before heading into the first conference game at Grace College. They dominated that matchup, beating Grace 3-0. It was a great start to the conference season, but since that good start the team has struggled a bit, and is just one game above the .500 mark overall. Despite those struggles Reininga believes there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about both the near future and the long haul as the Pilots gear up for tournament time. She said she is especially looking forward to the chalenges of the upcoming conference schedule. “The team is doing a great job, and I have seen a lot of growth,” said Reninga. “The conference is very strong this year, and all conference games are big, all are tough.” The Pilots will look to use the experience they have gained so far this year to help them finish the year with a strong showing in the final 10 matches of the season, including their four remaining conference matches. Reininga said the team has shown great resiliency and grit over the course of the season, playing in five matches that went the full five games. Unfortunately the team lost four of those five matches. Those tough losses have been part of a tough schedule that Reininga believes will have the team prepared for the long run. She said all signs point to a strong run by the Pilots in the post season. “We’ve played some tough teams and competed well, this should make us ready by tournament time,” she said. Outside of their senior leadership core, a trio of young players has begun to make an impact for the team. Emily Henry, a sophomore middle hitter, freshman outside hitter Callie Hartman, and talented sophomore Ashley Wagner have all made excellent contributions during the first half of the season. The Pilots are back in action this weekend at the Trinity International Tri-Match in Illinois. They have four remaining home matches, including Goshen College on Oct. 13, and then Marygrove College on Oct. 15. The team concludes the regular season with matches against Illinois Institute of Technology on the Oct. 31 and Marian on the Nov. 4. After that is the MCC Tournament and hopefully a berth into the national tournament.volleyball
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