By Walter Villa
Over the past 20 years, coach Ted Schulte has built a volleyball powerhouse in Wisconsin.
Catholic Memorial (Waukesha, Wis.) has won five state titles during that span, including the two most recent championships.
His teams have also played in Chicago’s prestigious Asics Challenge every year since 1993, finishing a program-best sixth last season and a respectable 10th this past weekend.
Now that they are back home, it’s just about time for the Crusaders (30-5) to make their stretch run. The state playoffs begin Oct. 18.
“I think we are a lot better team now than we were going in to Chicago,” Schulte said.
The Crusaders’ only losses at Asics were to a pair of teams that are in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings – No. 37 Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) and No. 41 Huntley (Huntley, Ill.).
But while Schulte was proud of his team’s performance in Chicago, he is at times frustrated by his players.
“We’re a psychotic team,” Schulte joked before the Asics Challenge. “We’re good, but we’re wildly inconsistent. At times, we just don’t seem to have the inner drive. We don’t have the intense practices we should be having. Sometimes there are petty jealousies. … But hope springs eternal.”
Perhaps Schulte is spoiled by last season’s team, which went 46-4 and set a high standard for the current group to follow.
Four starters graduated from last season’s team, leaving a bit of a leadership void. Two weeks ago, in the middle of a poor practice, the Crusaders called a players-only meeting to see if they could sort out their inconsistent play.
The new leaders of the team are senior co-captains Sara Connell and Greta Davis. Connell, a 5-7setter, has committed to Seton Hall. Davis, a 5-11middle hitter and an aspiring doctor, has chosen to focus on academics in college and won’t play volleyball. She has applied to Harvard.
Other Crusaders standouts include Amanda Hansen, a 6-3 senior middle hitter who has committed to Seton Hall; Kaitlyn Hastings, a 5-7 senior outside hitter who has committed to South Dakota; Lindsey Casper, a 5-4 junior who is a skilled libero; and Aly Dawson, a 5-11 junior outside hitter who has committed to Marquette.
Given that there are at least four future college players on the court for the Crusaders, there is no doubt the team has the talent to win state again.
Hooray for Houston
The Houston area is blessed with loads of volleyball talent. College Park, for example, has four players who have already committed to colleges, and Cypress Woods has three.
The College Park recruits are Katie Mitchell (Ohio State); Alex Thorson (Tulane); Michelle Griffith (Sam Houston); and Taylor Erwin (Emory).
Cypress Woods’ recruits include Chloe Collins (Texas); Victoria Arenas (Texas A&M); and Sarah Nielsen (Mississippi State).
Cypress Falls has a pair of college commitments in Chanell Clark-Bibbs (Georgia Tech) and Alexis Austin (Colorado).
Clear Lake can match Cypress Falls’ output with Kiara Wright (Southern Cal) and Haley Satterwhite (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi).
Some of the other big commitments include Magnolia’s Kylie Randall (Ohio State); Tomball’s Roxanne McVey (Mississippi State); Foster’s Tiana Dockery (Kansas); and Friendswood’s Jill Bergeson (Pepperdine).