“We talked about the humongous target on our back,” said head coach Kellee Roesel. “Everyone is going to play their best match against us and I though we played some really good teams.”
CLU took out Hendrix first (25-18, 25-21 and 25-11) before beating Trinity in three tight sets of 25-22, 25-20 and 26-24.
Stevens gave its best shot at the Regals, but the defending champs were undaunted, sweeping the Ducks 25-19, 26-24 and 25-18. They then wrapped up the weekend with a fourth consecutive sweep, this time of Cabrini, 25-17, 25-13 and 25-13. Four games in, no dropped sets? Strong start.
“When we struggled a little bit we were able to hold our composure,” Roesel said. “That was really refreshing to see. The first weekend is a coin-toss as to how you're going to perform and how other teams are going to perform. I thought we did a pretty good job in the first weekend.”
It's not all that surprising to see Cal Lutheran find success in the early part of the season. After all, nearly everyone is back from last season's title run except for outside hitters Pua Mo'Okinoliveria and Allie Eason. The familiar faces were reliable, but some newcomers stepped up as well.
There is not a whole lot of difference,” Roesel said about this year's team when comparing it to last. “We lost two really good players and really made one lineup change with a kid who has been waiting her turn. She really came out this week pounding it this weekend and putting up really huge numbers.”
Junior outside hitter Hope Stewart (pictured left) had a big weekend with 4.09 kills per set, including 13 kills against Hendrix, Trinity and Stevens while hitting .545 against Hendrix. She averaged three digs per set as well, with 10 against Trinity, and also averaged 0.55 blocks per set with five against Stevens.
Joining Stewart on the impressive end of the stat sheet were sophomore outside Amanda Roberts who had 2.42 and 3.83 digs per set and junior setter Jamie Smith, who set the tone for the offense with 10.50 assists.
“Not a whole lot has changed for us,” Roesel said. “It's a matter of keeping the kids healthy and making sure that they know at any given time another team could have a great match and we have to be ready for that.”
This weekend the Regals host the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational where they will see Puget Sound, UW-Whitewater, East Texas Baptist and Emory. Emory was one of only four teams that beat the Regals last season, so there could be an element of payback in that one. UW-Whitewater is one of the best teams in D3 volleyball.
To be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational will provide a great opportunity to do so.