UNO volleyball looks forward to tough schedule

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July 12th, 2011

Omaha, NE – The jump from Division II to Division I is having a significant impact on all the Maverick sports programs, as each prepares for its new line-up of competition. Here’s a closer look at how the move will shape up for the UNO women’s volleyball team, and a preview of the season.

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Coach Rose Shires comes into her 21st season as head coach of the women’s volleyball team at UNO. This year will be like no other she has coached previously, but Coach Shires is excited. She said the move has had an immediate impact on her team.

Coach Rose Shires gives her team a pep talk. (Photo courtesy UNO Athletics)

“It automatically gives the players on this team more validity,” Shires said. “I believe that the players on this team are great athletes, and they are great volleyball players. But when you put the Division II name behind them, for some reason people don’t give them the same respect as when they are Division I.”

This year will be somewhat of a transition. UNO will not be eligible for either the D-I or D-II NCAA Tournaments, but Coach Shires has built this year’s schedule to play a mix of both divisions to build towards next year’s jump to the Summit League.

UNO has games this season against North Dakota, who won the Great West conference last year. They will also face perennial Missouri Valley powerhouse Wichita State this fall. Coach Shires has taken the pitfall of not competing for championships this season and turned it into a quasi-NCAA tournament season, where almost every team on the schedule will be stiff competition. The final match of the season for UNO is against three-time defending Summit League champions: North Dakota State.

Shires said, “Every match-up is our NCAA tournament next year. That’s what I would tell an opponent, is that we have nothing to lose every time we step on the court, and we are going to lay it out there and go for it.”

Natalie Ebke, who will be a junior this year, started her career at UNO as a defender her freshman year, moving into a starting role as an outside hitter last season. She will be the primary hitter for UNO and she could have as much as 70 percent of the team’s offense, according to Coach Shires. Three seniors on the team who will bring a lot of experience are middle-blocker Lizzy Mach, Setter Emily Myers and Middle blocker Brittany Hanssen.

The opening Red and Black Scrimmage is August 20th at the Sapp Fieldhouse at UNO. The regular season opens at the Bradley tournament in Peoria, Illinois a week later on August 26th.

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