Courts in all areas of the Ewigleben Sports Complex were active in July, as Ferris State University volleyball players joined their coach, Tia Brandel-Wilhelm, in leading instruction of adolescent and high school age players, participating as individuals or as part of team units.
After a year where the Ferris Athletics program had to cancel its summer camps schedule due to COVID-19, senior outside hitter Katie O’Connell, an Academic All-American, as selected by sports information directors across the country, said players came to campus engaged.
“You can see that these campers want to get better because I have noticed an uptick in their involvement with our drills and their effort,” O’Connell said. “This is my fourth year working these camps, so their response makes the work enjoyable.”
Middle hitter Olivia Henneman-Dallape is heading into her sophomore year with the Bulldogs, where preseason in 2020 was brief, compared to working the individual camp, elite session and skill training during a two-week span.
“I think the little kids may have been the most fun group to work with, they have a great deal of energy, and they listen very hard to what we are telling them,” Henneman-Dallape said. “Really, all of the groups are fun to be with. To hear their laughter and see their smiles makes it all worthwhile.”
The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference held its 2020-21 volleyball season from February to April, rather than the normal fall campaign. O’Connell said their seasons, with summer camp in between, make this an active year. Still, they look forward to returning to the competition.
“I think it is a great time to bond, to give our freshman all the things they need
to know,” O’Connell said. “We are focused on conditioning. As a group, we feel stronger,
getting prepared for the regular season.”
Olivia agreed, though the changes for the 2020-21 season meant a return to the common preparation and participation schedule, in her experience.
“Being here for camp with my teammates is very much worth the effort it requires,” Henneman-Dallape said. “We get to know the freshman, which is certainly a change from the experience I had, coming in. It is good to get to know each other, with camps being a way to both condition and get some work in, ahead of practice. I have been a little tired and sore, but feel great about this experience.”
O’Connell enters her senior season with multiple All-American honors, both for her competition and academic results. Like Henneman-Dallape, she is in Ferris’ Nursing program. Katie said she is reflecting on the mileposts that are coming up, in concluding her collegiate athletic career.
“It is bittersweet in a way,” O’Connell said. “I am also working on the final touches of my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I know I can always come back to see my coaches, and instructors, because the people at Ferris have done so much to help us succeed as a team, and allow me to develop as an athlete and student.”