Western Courier

McKay believes her team has promise

By Tom Loftus

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It can get remarkably, impressively, unusually loud inside Western Illinois University’s Brophy Hall, the sometime-home of Western’s successful women’s volleyball program.

With acoustics that tend to amplify crowd noise, and visible reminders everywhere that leave no doubt for visiting teams that they are far, far from home, it could be said that Brophy Hall is the Leathernecks’ “seventh player,” or perhaps their secret weapon.

And although Western’s “main” residence is Western Hall – the Leathernecks open their home season there on Tuesday, Sept. 13 against Chicago State – Brophy Hall is the team’s sentimental favorite.

“When you can get energy created at home, it can be a real advantage to be at home, and have your crowd be that seventh man on the court, and in Brophy, it can be that,” said Kim McKay, who is beginning her 10th season as head coach of the Leathernecks. Western, which endured a subpar season in 2010, finishing 8-22, seem primed for a quick turnaround this season.

“And whether you have 200 or 800 people in Brophy, it’s loud,” McKay continued. “It’s definitely much more exciting to be in Brophy. We’re really building an environment in there that we love, and opponents hate. It’s fun.”

Brophy Hall, which is primarily used by Western’s kinesiology department and its dance program, is ideally suited for volleyball as well, particularly when its gymnasium is packed to the rafters with rabid, raucous volleyball fans.

And with a pair of new scoreboards (to the tune of $10,000) and snazzy wall decorations added for this season as well, the Leathernecks’ alternate home – like the team itself – is primed and ready for a memorable 2011 campaign.

The new scoreboards will make their debut when Western makes its first Brophy Hall appearance of the fall on Friday, Sept. 23 for a match against Summit League rival Southern Utah. The Leathernecks play their Friday and Saturday home conference games at Brophy, and their other (usually mid-week) home games at Western Hall.

Western kicks off its regular season on Friday, Aug. 26 at the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Invitational. In addition to the host Cougars, the Leathernecks will also face Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Kent State and Wofford at the event.

And based upon the team’s efforts thus far during preseason workouts, McKay sees great promise for a successful 2011 campaign for her club.

“Practices have been going really well,” McKay said. “I expected to see a little more fatigue at this point, and I don’t see it, so that’s a good thing. So far, everything we’ve put them through that could be mentally and physically draining, they’ve accepted that challenge and come through very, very well, so there’s a great team culture right now in the gym, and the demands of the preseason haven’t shown through yet.

“So I’m really proud of the girls; it’s allowed us to train at a high level, and also improve a lot in our first week.”

McKay said she has the unusual “problem” this season of having so much veteran leadership, she can’t simply designate two or three players as team captains.

“Most of the time in a team dynamic, you have two or three kids that stand out, and they’re the obvious captains and they do a great job with it,” McKay said. “The situation that we’re in is that we have a lot of girls that just have great leadership skills, but in different areas, so we’ve taken a different approach to it, because this is a situation that you’re not used to being in as a coach, and you want to make sure that you’re just really benefitting from each of those individual players’ strengths.”

Western returns seniors Megan Toczek, Brooke Stittleburg, Alyssa Holum and Cait Egan; juniors Bridget Murphy and Katie Hosteng; sophomores Sarah Fetter and Heather Smith; and redshirt freshman Alaina DiGiorgio-Verdin. The talented freshman recruiting class includes Mallory Gibson (Port Bryan, Ill.), Bailey Kaloupek (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Ann Miller (Davenport, Iowa), Samantha Fournier (Coal Valley, Ill.) and Molly Murphy (Chicago, Ill.).

Hosteng and Egan are expected to be strong contenders to fill the team’s starting middle hitter roles; Fetter could be the team’s starting setter; Murphy is the leading candidate for starting libero; and Miller and Stittleburg could fill the team’s starting outside hitter roles.

McKay said she has been particularly pleased with the focus and efforts of her incoming freshmen, and their ability to fit in seamlessly with her veteran crew. “They’re playing the game, and as simple as that statement sounds, they get on the court and they play the game,” McKay said.

“At the end of the day, they play volleyball, and they don’t get caught up in anything else, (like) ‘Whose ball is that’ or ‘Where was I supposed to play?'”


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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
McKay believes her team has promise