KWU Volleyball Eyes Conference Title
Mike Hammett - August 19, 2013 2:00 pm
After posting a 1-34 record in his first season as the head volleyball coach at Kansas Wesleyan in 2009, coach Fred Aubuchon has transformed the program.
The Coyotes won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in 2011, posted a runner-up finish last season, and in 2013, the Coyotes were picked by KCAC coaches to win the conference for a second time in three years.
“This is a position I’d like to be in,” Aubuchon said. “Am I happy with a preseason number one? No. That doesn’t win you a darn thing. At this point we’ve had a few practices, we’ve worked hard, but we haven’t achieved anything to get a first place ranking in the new season.”
Aubuchon says the league will be tough this season, especially at the top.
“I think that was a lot of respect by the coaches to put us in that position,” Aubuchon said. “You could put Tabor, Ottawa, Friends in that exact same spot, and I think all of us would feel comfortable with them being there as well.”
The preseason poll would indicate the Coyotes will have the target on their back in the new season. Aubuchon said it’s something he’s not worried about.
“Last year, we played an entire season with a target on our back,” Aubuchon said. “I don’t think we played as well as we would have liked. We came up a little short of some of our goals. Obviously, we did not win the conference, but we were there in second place. I was pretty happy with a top three finish, to be honest, in this conference.”
“Having that target on your back makes it difficult every night. Being back on our back again after having that for a year, it’s not as much as a burden as some people would think. We’re not even considering the target.”
The Coyotes have seven starters returning from last year’s squad. KWU opened practice with three-a-days last week, and Aubuchon said this group is further along at this point in time than any other team he has coached.
“We’ve pushed at an aggressive level,” Aubuchon said. “The ladies have responded.”
Aubuchon said preseason All-Conference selection setter Taylor Elkinton is a key piece to this year’s team.
“She found a niche last year,” Aubuchon said. “She went from being a back up player, to a starter to the number one, and then made all-conference. Now she’s preseason All-Conference. I think we can put the team on her back and she can handle the load. It’s her job to move that ball around to her big hitters.”
Aubuchon said Elkinton has several weapons to work with, includuing fellow preseason All-Conference picks Bre Schultz and Taylor Klover. The Coyotes also return Melissa Blair, Lauren Chamness, Birtany Miller and Kaci Cole. The Coyotes will also work in freshman Caitlin Chamness, Lauren’s younger sister.
Aubuchon said he thinks among younger players, Cole and Caitlin Chamness will make an impact.
“Kaci came in as a freshman last year, broke her hand, and had to redshirt,” Aubuchon said. “Caitlin Chamness (is a) big impact right side hitter. I don’t think it will take more than a few weeks to get her acclimated to this level.”
The Coyotes open the season on Friday, playing in a tournament at St. Thomas University in Miami, Fla. The Coyotes play the host in the opener, and will also take on Indiana Institute of Technology, Evangel University and Missouri Baptist. The Coyotes will also play in tournaments at Bellevue (Neb.), Avila (Mo.), and host a tournament before diving into the meat of the conference schedule.
“These early match ups for us are against a lot of big teams and they’re going to make a difference in the short-coming of our season,” Aubuchon said. “But the long-term of our season is conference play. We want these early season match-ups to really prepare us for our conference. We do not play an easy schedule, ever, under my reign. We will play tough teams. We are not afraid to take a few losses if it’s going to build a championship level team as the season goes on. Later in the season, we’ve got some big teams, top-25 teams, coming here for non-conference games, teams like Park and Bellevue, that are very well known on the national level.”