The 2013 Alma College volleyball team had what would be best described as unpredictable season. The squad was very competitive and was talented but had stretches where they came up short and in the end, they missed the playoffs due to that uneven play.
For the first time in six years, the Alma College volleyball team did not participate in the MIAA playoffs. The Scots finished the 2013 campaign with a mark of 8-8 in the MIAA and 13-14 overall.
Trine and Saint Mary's also finished 8-8 in the league. Due to tiebreaker scenarios (Alma being eliminated because they had the worst record of the three in head-to-head matches with each other), the Scots were the odd team out in a three-way tie for third and missed the four-team tournament.
"The conference is a lot stronger than it has been in the past and with the #1 and #2 teams in the nation in this league, it is helping us build the MIAA into a powerhouse," said Alma Head Coach Sarah Dehring. "The final MIAA match night of the regular season saw four teams who were fighting for only two spots. It was unfortunate that we did not earn one of those spots, but we lost a few matches throughout the season that put us in that position"
This season's team had five seniors that experienced plenty of success in their four years in the program. Missing the playoffs was a disappointing end to their collegiate careers, but they can hold their heads high. They are leaving the program better than we they arrived and their on and off the court legacy will last a long time.
"It is unfortunate that these six seniors are going out on a loss like this, but success is measured is so many more ways than wins and losses," commented Dehring. "They have left their mark on ACVB and will be truly missed. They have been amazing role models for their teammates both on and off the court. They left their legacy in so many more ways than what they did on the volleyball court, and that is what Division III athletics is all about."
One of those seniors, MH Lea Klooster (Jenison/Jenison) was named All-MIAA First Team after leading the team with 269 kills and 292 digs. She also added a team-best 14 blocks and had 50 block assists. Klooster was named Second Team All-MIAA after her sophomore and juniors seasons as well for the Scots.
"Lea had a very good season for us and deserved the all-league honor," stated Dehring. "She was never a vocal leader, but her passion and pride for ACVB really came out this season. She played for her team and not for herself. The team meant more than anything to her and I think that that is what helped her be so great."
Other standouts for the Scots in 2013 included Sr. MH Rebecca Trosper (Plano, TX/Lutheran North), who had 152 kills, 10 blocked shots and 52 block assists and Sr. S Erika VanHavel (Mason/Mason) who paced Alma with 401 assists and notched 166 digs.
Sr. DS/L Jaycee Cole (Alma/Alma) finished second on the team with 279 digs, while Fr. S Mary Dulzo (Novi/Mercy) was next with 231 digs. Jr. OH/DS Laura Walker (Roscommon/Roscommon), who will be looked up heavily next season, finished 213 with 175 digs and 150 kills. In addition, Fr. OH/DS Sasha Laykova (Ternopil, Ukraine/Forest Hills Northern) added 123 kills and 123 digs in her first season with Alma.
One sign of a competitive and strong program is the level of their non-league schedule. Over the past five seasons, Alma has made a transition to a team that will go anywhere and take on anyone. 2013 was no different for the Scots.
Alma began the season at the Bluffton University Tournament and had a successful weekend, going 3-1 with the lone loss being to a very strong Case Western squad by a score of 3-2.
The following week began the MIAA schedule and the Scots faced a tough road right from the beginning. Alma lost at league favorite Hope College in the first match and then dropped a 3-0 decision to Calvin College, who would be the eventual National Champion.
Then came Saint Mary' College at home in the third match of the season - little did anyone know at the time how important such an early season matchup would be for the playoff seedings at the end of the season. The Belles dominated at Art Smith Arena and defeated the Scots by a score of 3-1 and Alma was staring at 0-3 in the MIAA.
The loss to the Belles at home proved to be the first sign that the 2013 season was going to be a challenge for these Scots.
"We say that our motto is 'respect all, fear none' but were not playing that way and when teams challenged us that normally did not we played safe instead of playing to win," remarked Dehring. "We played the ranked teams tough as if we had nothing to lose and looked great versus those teams, but against the average teams we would find ourselves struggling because we would play safe instead of to win. I hope the returners use that to fuel their fire as they workout in the off season."
After a win versus Adrian College, the Scots took part in the Mt. Union Purple Raider Classic. The tournament was chalk full of nationally respected programs, but Alma did well, going 2-2 over the weekend.
Alma then won three of their next four MIAA matchups to stand at 4-4 at the halfway point of the league season. But three losses in a row - Hope, Calvin and Saint Mary's again - put the Scots in a deep hole. To their credit, Alma reeled off three consecutive victories to improve to 7-7 with two matches remaining.
After a side trip to Chicago for a pair of non-league matches (losses) against the University of Chicago and Elmhurst College and then a cancellation of a match against Finlandia, the Scots hosted Olivet and went to Trine for the final two matches of the season.
A tough 3-2 win over the visiting Comets put Alma at 8-7 with the match remaining against the Thunder. A win would put Alma in the playoffs and a loss, combined with a Saint Mary's win, would knock the Scots out.
Played in front of a raucous crowd in Angola, Indiana, Trine defeated the Scots 3-0 in a match much closer than the score indicated. That, coupled with the Belles winning also, gave the league the three-way tie at 8-8 and Alma saw their season come to an end.
However tough the ending of the season was, the building blocks are in place for the program to be competitive year in and year out. Dehring is excited about the future, but also knows that it won't be easy.
"We will be rebuilding next season as we will have four seniors, three juniors, and 12 sophomores," concluded Dehring. "We return some starters and quite a few girls that gained experience this season. This year our Achilles Heal was our passing and ball control and that will be the same next season. We will be working a lot on passing in the off season because that is what wins matches."