(PRESQUE ISLE, ME) -- It is a new era for UMPI volleyball. Mark Kornachuk was named the Owls' head coach in April. Since then, the focus has been on assessing existing talent, recruiting more student-athletes in order to have a full roster, and begin rebuilding a program that went 2-23 in 2011.
2011 Season Overview:
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 on the road. 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.
5 Questions with new coach Mark Kornachuk
What has been your first priority since being named head coach at UMPI?
Mark Kornachuk: My first priority since being named head coach has been to assess the team of returners by looking at strengths and weaknesses and to try to build up the team with incoming freshman players.
What dates do you feel will be important this season?
MK: All our games are important this year because we as a team are truly rebuilding in most every way. The ladies have a new coach to deal with who has different strategies and ideas, the coach has new players with different skill sets so all that has to be ironed out before our first game. As each game approaches, we all have to adjust to the new team we face and build on past successes and move past failures.I believe St Thomas will be a tough match due to Canadian volleyball being much more a part of the community than in Maine. We have to play a little catch up with skills in that area to be competitive against players who have had club team experience along with middle and high school seasons. With that being said, I do believe we will be very competitive against them this season just from the few spring practices we have already had.
Who are the key returners and what they will bring to this year's team?
MK: My returners are all key this season in different ways and areas of play. Shaina Hood (Jr./Princeton, ME) (147 digs in 2011) has the experience on the court to keep her head in the game. Her strengths in serve receive as well as power in hitting are a big part of the team. Elizabeth Kofstad (So./Presque Isle, ME) (46 kills) and Leslie Theriault (Do./Ensfield, ME) are my hitters as well as key blockers. Both of these ladies bring height, talent and skill up on the net. Allison MacDonald is a returner from two years ago and brings a beautiful set to the team as well as the ability to hit. Randi Kaplan (So./Embden, ME) (137 digs and 95 assists in 2011) brings a great set, a strong hitting ability and court awareness to be able to play most any position well. The best things about the returners are their drive to play better and ability to take in new techniques and apply them to any position they may be asked to play.
What will constitute a "successful" season in your eyes?
MK: A successful season will be the improvement of the players in both skill and game awareness. We need to pass over some hurdles this season to become a close knit team with smooth plays but that will come with time and improvement. With that smoothness comes wins and new ideas for plays and more skills but it all starts with the players improving from day one.
The team will be successful IF:
MK: This team will be successful if we set realistic goals to surpass but also try not only to improve ourselves on the court but to improve the team as well. This team will work best with six players on the court acting as one team, not as one person trying to play six different positions.
Volleyball season will begin September 15th at the Husson University Invitational. Once again the Owls volleyball team will be challenged with an excess of road games. In fact volleyball will play only one home date this season, that coming on Saturday, October 6th when UMaine-Machias comes to Wieden Gym for a pair of matches.
"I am very excited about this season not only for the challenges I face but also for the ladies as they build this team for themselves but also for the university. They are anxious to represent UMPI on the court and to show we are competitive in the sport of volleyball," said Kornachuk.