2011 saw the Owls' volleyball team making the transition from the NAIA Sunrise Conference to an NCAA Division III Independent / USCAA program. The most glaring difference being a lack of home matches. 21 of UMPI's 25 matches were played away from Wieden Gym. Another transition was happening within the squad itself. Youth was served on 2nd year coach Jay Beaulieu's squad as he welcomed 6 freshmen to the eight-player roster.
"We had our ups and downs the season," said Beaulieu, "With only one week to prepare for (NCAA) Division III volleyball. The freshmen women did well adjusting to new concepts and a higher level of play."
Freshman Elizabeth Kofstad (Presque Isle, ME) helped seal the Owls' first win of the season producing a game-winning serve on a "net roll" vs. Unity College.
Karen Creighton (Sr./Sussex, NB) had an impact on the court to be sure, leading the squad in kills. However it's a contribution she made off the court that may wind up having the most lasting impact. As the team struggled with injuries in the middle of the season, Creighton, an athletic training major, went to Coach Beaulieu with an idea.
"Karen suggested a new form of warm up and stretching that seemed to inspire the rest of the players. Using the ladder for a quick reaction warm up and adding motion stretch line drills refreshed the team for the rest of the season," said Beaulieu.
With 7 student-athletes eligible to return to next year's team without a senior, Owls' volleyball has a unique opportunity to be both young AND experienced next year. Shaina Hood (So./Princeton, ME) will be the "elder statesman" as a junior. Hood was 2nd most digs for the Owls in 2011 with 147. Freshmen starters Randi Kaplan (137 digs, 95 assists),Samantha Roy (113 assists, 155 digs, 70 kills, 45 aces), and Kofstad (46 kills) would all return with a year under their belts.
"Our young players this year experienced volleyball levels of play they never had seen before. Next year they will know what to expect, will be ready with volleyball knowledge and will be ten times more prepared to start off the season," said Beaulieu.