FSU shows potential at invite

BIG RAPIDS – Looking back on a weekend that concluded with a 3-1 record at its home invitational, there is a lot to like from the Ferris State volleyball team with a lot of experience yet to be gained.

That was the sentiment of Tia Brandel-Wilhelm, who saw her FSU team split a pair of matches on Saturday in the Ferris State Invitational, falling to No. 7 ranked Washburn before defeating Cedarville (Ohio) to close out the tournament.

BREAKING THROUGH: Ferris State’s Megan Vander Meer attempts a kill against Washburn during her team’s home invitational on Saturday. FSU went 3-1 during the invite. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

BREAKING THROUGH: Ferris State’s Megan Vander Meer attempts a kill against Washburn during her team’s home invitational on Saturday. FSU went 3-1 during the invite. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

“I think overall there are a lot of things that we do well,” Brandel-Wilhelm said of the team’s performance during the invitational. “We just need to be more consistent with all of the little things.

“There are handful of things that we haven’t even done yet in practice,” she added. “I think we have moments where things are going really well and we’re focused and there are other times where we lapse just a little bit. Overall, it’s just about maintaining consistency in our play.”

Against a very competitive Washburn squad, the Bulldogs took the first set 25-22, but the Ichabods came back to win the next three sets by scores of 25-15, 25-21 and 26-24 to win the match.

Ferris State had 10 different players see game action in the losing effort. The attack was led by sophomore outside hitter Alexis Huntey, who totaled 15 kills. Meanwhile, Caroline Heitzman added 11 kills to help the FSU cause.

Freshman setter Stephanie Sikorski added to the Ferris attack by contributing 40 assists and nine digs. Senior Libero Brandi Merren also put her stamp on the match by recording 20 digs.

FSU also received 15 digs from Danielle Dowd to go with nine digs and seven kills from Megan Vander Meer.

FSU assistant coach Jesse Ortiz said he was happy with how the young Bulldogs have responded to stepping into big roles early in the season.

“We have a younger team, so it’s just about executing in those high-pressure situations,” he said. “I would say one of the strengths of this team so far is how hard they work no matter how high-pressure the situation was. Especially when it’s tough out there, you want to see how your young team reacts, and that’s all you can ask for is how hard they fought.”

All of the youth showed glimpses of how talented this team can be as it gains experience, Brandel-Wilhelm said. Outside of Merren and senior middle hitter Angi Kent, all of the team’s contributors on Saturday were freshmen or sophomores.

“We have a lot of young players out there that are freshmen and sophomores,” she said. “Except for Brandi and Angi, everyone out there is a freshman or sophomore. I think we’re doing great and they’re going to figure it out. They have great determination and desire, they just need some more experience.”

The Bulldogs then cruised in three-straight sets (25-17, 25-14, 25-16) with the win over Cedarville.

FSU featured a balanced attack in the victory. Huntey was the only Bulldog player to reach double-figures in kills with a match-best 15 in the contest.

Ortiz said Huntey’s competitiveness was on display all weekend at the invitational.

“Alexis, well, she’s a Huntey,” he said. “She wants to get in there and mix it up. That kind of tenacity and drive is infectious for the rest of the team. We have a lot of players that are gung ho about competing like that and working hard.”

In addition, FSU received 11 digs from senior libero Brandi Merren along with 22 assists and eight digs by freshman setter Stephanie Sikorski. Sophomore Megan Vander Meer added eight digs and six assists while sophomore Danielle Dowd managed to dig up eight of her own. Senior middle hitter Angi Kent totaled four block assists with Caroline Heitzman netting seven kills.

Sikorski showed great composure for her first taste of collegiate volleyball, Ortiz said.

“Stephanie has done a great job coming in as a freshman with a bunch of great players,” he said. It’s a different game from high school to college and I think she’s handled that (really) well.”

The Bulldogs will next take part in the Petty Martin Challenge hosted by Central Missouri on Friday and Saturday in Warrensburg, Mo. FSU will face State (Minn.) in the opening match on Friday starting at 1 p.m.

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