WVB: Team has record year, Mikovich at forefront

Kirsten Peters, Co-Sports Editor

After coming off of a losing season, the Colonels have made strides this season to better their program. With seven matches left to be played, Wilkes is aiming to hold on to their current winning record of 15-8. This feat might be possible, as the women’s volleyball team is having a record year, led by the efforts of junior captain Jamey Mikovich.

Since winning in their season opener against Penn State Hazleton to falling in their MAC Freedom opener against Manhattanville, the Colonels have been battling every match in order to succeed.

Head coach Joe Czopek credits this success to the team’s increased chemistry on the court and the players’ ability to work hard in practice with a positive attitude.

Considering that half of the roster is comprised of freshmen, Czopek was delighted to see how fast the team came together as a unit. Czopek notes that it’s the players’ positive attitude and desire to succeed as a team that is leading them to be successful.

Alex Ferrier, junior outside hitter, shared how the players have the same mindset as their coach.

“Being successful on the volleyball court is not just based on your playing ability, rather success comes from being a good teammate,” said Ferrier. “I believe that our team’s great connection, on and off the court, has really helped us to be successful so far because it sets a positive outlook and makes everyone comfortable with each other on the court. Without that connection, you would be useless.”

This positive approach seems to be working for Mikovich, as she is at the forefront of the team’s efforts this season and whose name keeps getting recognition on the volleyball court.

In September,  Mikovich, the right side hitter, earned the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Freedom Player of the Week honor twice, tied Wendy O’Conner’s single-match school record of 29 kills, was named the Division III Women’s Volleyball Offensive Player of the Month by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), and earned herself one of The Beacon’s Female Athlete of the Week honors this month.

Statistically, Mikovich leads the season with 367.5 points and averaging 4.90 points per set, as well as leading with 308 kills and averaging 4.11 kills per set.

Being more than halfway through the season, Mikovich has demonstrated what a crucial role she is to the team’s overall success, which has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

“Jamey, as one of our captains, brings a lead-by-example attitude to the team, whether we’re facing a tough opponent across the net or working hard in intersquad in practice,” said Czopek. “Her strong work ethic encourages everyone to give 100 percent all the time. She has set personal goals for herself, and realizes that for her to achieve them, the team must also achieve its goals.”

Some of Mikovich’s goals include working on executing different hitting angles that she’s not used to hitting, as well as working on bettering her serve. By focusing on attaining these goals, Mikovich has not only improved as a player herself, as demonstrated by her stat line, but she has also been essential to helping the team attain its season goals.

“We’re currently preparing for a huge conference game against King’s this week,” said Mikovich. “We played three teams in New York last weekend in preparation for our upcoming conference games. They had fast-paced offenses, like we saw Eastern had this past week, and we know other teams in the conference will have for the rest of the season.”

Czopek notes that although Wilkes doesn’t take any matchup lightly and considers every matchup to be important, their strongest rivalries tend to be against local schools, that being both King’s and Misericordia. Hence, how the team performs in this upcoming matchup against King’s should serve as an indicator for how much the Colonels have improved this past season.

In addition to Mikovich’s standout performance, junior defensive specialist Juliet Betke has been spearheading the Colonels’ defensive efforts.

On Sept. 20, the Colonels swept Clarks Summit in three straight sets, with each of the set scores being 25-21. In the second set, Betke displayed her dominance on the court, earning her 1,000th career dig. Betke tacked on 10 digs for the night, with her sixth dig allowing her to achieve the thousand-dig milestone.

Moreover, the Colonels success is not solely due to their upperclassmen, rather the new underclassmen added to the roster this season have been crucial to the team’s success as well.

Freshman Karlye Huffman has proven to be electric on the court, providing 30 assists and directing the Wilkes offense to a season-high .233 hitting percentage in the matchup against Clarks Summit, which earned her an Athlete of the Week honor for The Beacon as a freshman.

Huffman notes how working together and always having each other’s backs on the court is imperative to maintaining a positive attitude against stiff competition.

Although the Colonels lost in their conference opener against Manhattanville back on Sept. 12, Czopek notes how this competition has fueled the team’s fire and urged them to keep pushing in the right direction.

“This five-set match reinforced that we can play with any team who was ranked above us in preseason,” said Czopek, noting how Wilkes was ranked seventh in the MAC Freedom preseason poll, two spots below Manhattanville.

After falling 3-2 to Manhattanville, the Colonels fell again 3-1 in their second MAC Freedom matchup against FDU-Florham on Sept. 18. However, these losses only reminded the Colonels of their goals and priorities for the season.

After two conference losses, the Colonels were finally able to tack on a 3-0 conference win against Delaware Valley on Sept. 26.

“Coming off of a two-game losing streak in conference play, we knew that we had to do something different,” said Ferrier. “We chose to run our practices differently than we normally do, allowing us to use our time more efficiently and pull off our first conference win against Del Val.”

When looking at the season as a whole, Ferrier has high hopes for their continued success, as she believes this year’s team is filled with more talent than Wilkes has seen in the past three years.

This mindset doesn’t seem far-fetched, as Ferrier’s coach emphasized how each and every athlete on the roster is crucial to the team’s success.

“I could list each player’s name and what their role is for us to be successful,” said Czopek. “From the team captains leading on and off the court right through the injured players keeping stats on the bench, everyone understands that in order to be successful it requires us to all work as a single unit.”

The Colonels are optimistic for the rest of their games this season, as they are set to take on King’s and DeSales in back-to-back MAC Freedom play.

The conference matchup against King’s will take place at home in the Marts Center on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 7:00 p.m. The following week, the Colonels will travel to DeSales for another conference matchup on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7:00 p.m.