Trolls volleyball back on track
Trinity Christian College volleyball coach Bill Schepel had a worry on the eve of the season.
“The biggest change this season will be adjusting to a new setter, which may give us a completely different look,” Schepel said.
The record indicates the Trolls look as good as ever. Trinity started out 6-1, which included a 4-0 ledger in the crossover tournament it hosted in conjunction with St. Xavier University. The Trolls captured each of those tourney victories in four sets.
The team that rolled to a runner-up finish in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship tournament last year and made the Final Four the season before that may be ready for a third straight trip to the big show.
The weekend couldn’t have been more perfect, with wins over Spring Arbor, Siena Heights, Mount Mercy and Huntington, in that order. The closest set versus those four foes was the third one against Spring Arbor on Friday afternoon, a 25-23 tangle that was 20-20 until Trinity scored twice to take a lead it would not surrender.
It would appear the departure of setter Melanie Lawrence hasn’t hurt and that sophomore Erynn Schuh, who spelled Lawrence at times last season, is fitting right in. So far, she’s averaging 9.71 assists per set, with Jessica Wiltjer, Kirsten Harms and Kaitlin Feddema coming up big in finishing off points.
If those names are familiar, it’s because they did the same thing last season, all the way into December.
Curiously, this season began with a loss. The Trolls opened in California and took on 20th-ranked Cal State-San Marcos, which prevailed 25-16, 25-22, 25-15.
Since then, it’s been nothing but success, including a victory in the next match, just two hours later. Trinity knocked off San Diego Christian on its home court, winning 25-22, 25-17, 25-18.
Four days after that, the Trolls stopped in Phoenix and scored a 25-8, 25-18, 25-18 rout of Arizona Christian to cap off the season-opening road trip.
The home court has been just as friendly, but beginning Friday at the Georgetown Invitational in Kentucky, Trinity plays nine of the next 11 matches on the road. Its two home contests are the first two Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference encounters of the season, against Purdue-North Central and Olivet Nazarene University.
• Record: 6-1 overall, 0-0 CCAC, 4-0 home, 2-0 away, 0-1 neutral. Leaders: Jessica Wiltjer 68 kills; Erynn Schuh 13 aces; Ellie Raebel 81 digs; Wiltjer 25 blocks.
• Schedule: Friday-Saturday, at Georgetown College Invitational; Tuesday, vs. Purdue-North Central, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, vs. Olivet Nazarene, 7 p.m.; Sept. 17, at Calumet College of St. Joseph, 7 p.m.
Aside from about 10 minutes in each of their first two matches, the Trolls’ men have played well.
But the start of the second half in each affair? That’s killed them.
Both St. Ambrose University and Indiana Tech scored twice in the first 10 minutes after the break, and in each case it was those minutes that sent Trinity down to defeat.
The opener against the Fighting Bees was scoreless after 45 minutes, remarkable considering St. Ambrose outshot the Trolls 7-0 in the first half. Trinity goalkeeper Rick Fawkes made three saves during that span.
Then Ross Hendry — just 81 seconds into the second half — and Daniel Brown scored in short order to stake the Bees to a 2-0 lead. And there the scoreboard stayed, even though Trinity finally mustered a quartet of shots. St. Ambrose’s Kyle Williams had to make only two saves.
The Trolls gave it another go on Saturday, and this time they opened a 1-0 lead on Indiana Tech, thanks to Alex Tien’s goal 15:11 into the contest. It was 1-1 at the half after Robbie Kiernan’s penalty kick, but again the start of the second half represented Trinity’s downfall.
The Warriors scored twice in a span of 2:47, Stuart Mitchell converting Zachary St. Aubin’s feed from close range at 47:08 and St. Aubin redirecting Kiernan’s long pass past Fawkes at 49:55. The Trolls closed the gap to 3-2 via Caleb Steele’s penalty kick at 75:35, but couldn’t net the equalizer.
• Record: 0-2 overall, 0-0 CCAC, 0-1 home, 0-1 away, 0-0 neutral. Leaders: Caleb Steele, Alex Tien 1 goal each; Rey Bahena 1 assist; Steele, Tien 2 points each; Rick Fawkes 2.00 goals-against average, .786 save percentage.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. Moody Bible, 2:30 p.m., Route 83 complex; Sept. 18, at Huntington, 4 p.m.; Sept. 21, vs. Oakland City, 2 p.m., Route 83 complex.
So far this season, senior goalkeeper Becky Gold has been golden. That 00 number on the back of her uniform also stands for the amount of goals she’s allowed in Trinity’s first two matches.
Shutouts of Indiana Tech and Viterbo, both at home, meant the Trolls were undefeated entering this past Wednesday’s home match against Taylor. However, they didn’t sport a completely spotless ledger.
The Indiana Tech match ended in a scoreless tie, as Trinity also failed to find the back of the net despite unleashing 15 shots, a half-dozen of which were stopped by opposing goalkeeper Jordan Roell. The rest of them flew wide or high of the goal.
Gold made the last of her five saves with 8:31 remaining, a block of Tori Singstock’s boot from the top of the penalty area. That preserved the deadlock and shutout.
Gold came up big against Viterbo as well, making seven saves, and this time she received some offensive help. Freshman Kayla Diemer scored at 23:23, converting Bekah Gonzales’ corner kick for the only goal in the Trolls’ 1-0 triumph.
Diemer is no stranger to putting the ball into the net. She led South Christian High of Grand Rapids to Michigan’s Division 3 high school title last year, scoring the only goal in the title match. She, midfielder Cassidy Bosselaar and Samantha Burgess, teammates for four years at South Christian, are three of coach Josh Lenarz’s prize recruits this season.
• Record: 1-0-1 overall, 0-0 CCAC, 1-0-1 home, 0-0 away, 0-0 neutral. Leaders: Kayla Diemer 1 goal; Bekah Gonzales 1 assist; Diemer 2 points; Becky Gold, 0.00 goals-against average, 1.000 save percentage (12 saves).
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. Siena Heights, noon, Route 83 complex; Sept. 13, at Clarke, 5 p.m.; Sept. 18, at Huntington, 2 p.m.
Junior Anna Bos was the Trolls’ unquestioned leader last season.
After one race, this year is already different. Sophomore Jessica Disselkoen paced Trinity in its opener at Elmhurst College, her 15-minute, 55.3-second clocking on the 4-kilometer circuit placing her 21st overall and a little over six seconds ahead of Bos.
That kind of depth is what the Trolls have been seeking. With seniors Hannah Schwab and Justine VanDyk next among Trinity runners, the Trolls finished a solid fourth in the 12-school field.
A thunderstorm hit immediately after the finish of the women’s race, canceling the men’s event. The latter will hear the gun for the first time Friday in Bourbonnais at Olivet Nazarene’s Midwest Classic.
• Top times: Jessica Disselkoen, 15:55.3; Anna Bos, 16:06.1; Hannah Schwab, 16:13.0; Justin VanDyk, 16:37.5.
• Schedule: Friday, Midwest Classic at Aspen Ridge Golf Course, Bourbonnais, 5 p.m.; Sept. 13, Illinois Intercollegiates at Weibring Golf Club, Normal, 5 p.m.
The birdies aren’t tweeting as often as Trinity golfers would like. The Trolls have yet to climb out of the bottom half of the standings after their first two tournaments of the fall season.
They were 15th in a 17-team field at last weekend’s event at Bedford Valley Country Club in Battle Creek, Mich., with only Logan Vos finishing in the top 25. He shot rounds of 75 and 77 for a two-day total of 8-over-par 152, which put him in a tie for 12th among 84 individual competitors.
Vos was Trinity’s only consistent player throughout the tourney. Freshman Jonathan Zandstra, who led Illiana Christian to a state-finals berth last fall, scored 78 in his second round after opening with an 86. He finished tied for 66th at 164, along with teammate Spencer TenHaken.
Scott Ebbeling carded a 163 (85-78) for the Trolls and tied for 66th, while Tim Hoeksema fired a second-round 79 after opening with an untidy 90.
The team total of 640 was 57 strokes behind the winner, Owens Community College. Host Bethel College was second at 595.
The season-opener found Trinity next-to-last in a seven-team field, though, with 664 strokes, closer to winner AIB College of Business (610) than last-place Purdue-North Central (728).
Vos again led the way, firing rounds of 82 and 81 for an overall 163 at White Hawk Country Club in Crown Point, Ind. Ebbeling (167; 84-83) tied for 24th and Zandstra was alone in 26th, rebounding from an opening 91 with a second-round 77.
TenHaken also sneaked into the 70s with a second-round 79 to total 171 for 36 holes.
• Scoring leaders: Logan Vos, 75, Aug. 30; Jonathan Zandstra, 77, Aug. 27; Scott Ebbeling, 78, Aug. 31; Tim Hoeksema, 79, Aug. 31; Spencer TenHaken, 79, Aug. 27.
• Schedule: Sept. 10, St. Francis Fall Classic, Inwood Golf Course, Joliet; Sept. 13-14, Battle at Blackthorn Golf Course, South Bend.