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Wednesday, 20 August 2014 00:00

Veteran Group Looks to Lead Volleyball

Baker opens up its season this Friday and Saturday at the Oklahoma Baptist Tournament Baker opens up its season this Friday and Saturday at the Oklahoma Baptist Tournament

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – Under Baker University head volleyball coach Kathy Allen the Wildcats have been a staple near the top of the HAAC standings the past five seasons and have captured 20 or more wins in four of the past five campaigns.

Along the way, Coach Allen has become the winningest head coach in all sports programs at Baker with her career mark of 354-295.

Baker will enter the 2014 season just five spots out of the NAIA Coaches' Top 25 Preseason Poll earning 52 votes from the coaches.

"Winning all of those matches here at Baker really just means I've been here a really long time," said Allen. "But seriously it says a lot about the type of athletes we have had here at Baker and what the administration has done in my time here to put us in a situation to be successful. I am very grateful for that."

Her 2014 squad returns a strong majority of its nucleus from last season, but did part with four seniors from year ago, including All-HAAC libero Renata Dill and all-conference performers in outside hitters Jasmyn Turner and Crystal Simon.

Allen looks to lean on the last two HAAC freshman of the year award winners in junior middle hitter Danielle French, who won the HAAC freshman award in 2012 and sophomore Hannah Bettge, who won the honor last year.

Bettge was named to the 2013 All-HAAC first team as a freshman, while French earned a spot on the all-conference second team. Another all-conference returner for the 'Cats is senior right-side hitter Shannon McCarty, who received All-HAAC honorable mention.

Junior middle hitter Shannon Bond and senior outside Taryn Brees will see action on the court. Brees, McCarty and defensive specialists Kylie Pease and Sara Slater are the four seniors.

Coach Allen is very high on some newcomers entering the system this fall, especially junior outside hitter Natalie Minchow, who transfers to Baker from University of Sioux Falls and played with the 'Cats during spring workouts.

She is also looking for freshman Kallie Fischer of Silver Lake, Kan., to be an impact player on the outside. Transfers Kayla May of Coffeyville CC and Haleigh Offield, a transfer from NCAA Division II Northwest Missouri State, could see playing time at the outside and middle spots.

The Wildcats will open 2014 with three straight tournaments and will compete in four matches at each site.

Baker will host John Brown (Ark.) at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 5 and Doane College (Neb.) at 7 p.m. inside the Collins Center as part of the annual Baker Invitational. They then will take on Morningside (Iowa) at 1 p.m. at the Collins Center and Sterling (Kan.) to end the tournament at 7 p.m.

Coach Allen enjoys playing in these early-season tournaments to get her athletes playing a lot of competitive volleyball and it helps shape them into the team they want to be to carry on the rest of the season.

"This will give our team a chance to see where we fit not only within our conference, but regionally and nationally and I think that's good for us," said Allen. "It allows us to see what we need to work on and gives the girls a lot of game day experience early on."

After the Baker Invitational, the Wildcats will have eight more home dates including a home match with Ottawa on Sept. 12, they will also host Peru State on Sept. 16, Central Methodist on Sept. 23, Benedictine College on Sept. 30, Graceland on Oct. 7, Culver-Stockton on Oct. 21, Haskell on Oct. 30 and Newman University on Nov. 6.


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