DC v-ball off to fast start

By LYNN GROLL groll@crescent-news.com Published:

Stay in the green.

AKA: Staying up in Defiance College volleyball terms.

So far, so good.

At 3-0 in the HCAC and atop the league standings, the Lady Jackets are hoping to stay right there and it's exactly where a pair of Henry County natives plan to keep DC this fall on the court.

Napoleon High School product Marlea Rolander and Patrick Henry High School graduate Jessica Tietje have joined forces with fellow seniors Meghan Hinds and Michelle Sikora along with a talented cast of youth to form a resurgence at DC.

"I'm very pleased," said Tietje of the season. "We came in having set goals and had a really good incoming (freshmen) class and returners."

With a class of eight rookies joining the program, getting on the same page was a focal point of Rolander's.

"I think the team has done such a good job of meshing together," said Rolander. "With such a big freshmen class coming in, that was one of the things we're really focused on ... making sure the team was as close as they could be off the court so when we got on the court it would be smooth sailing from there."

Despite playing without 2010 HCAC Freshman of the Year Chelsea Ludeman for much of this season, the Lady Jackets are 3-0 in the conference, and winning the league title is priority No. 1.

"We started having captains meetings last spring and we knew what we wanted to change from last year," said Tietje. "But our whole goal this year is winning conference."

According to Rolander, 2011 is the best opportunity for the team to achieve that goal.

"Most definitely," said Rolander. "I think this year out of the last three we've been here, this is probably our best chance so far with the depth on our team. We have a lot of choices for the back row and the front row ... just lots of depth."

Rolander and Tietje are neck-and-neck for top attacking honors for the Purple-and-Gold this season. ?olander holds a current five-kill edge with 160, while both have benefited from talented freshman setter Alicia Kalic (South Lyon, Mich.) joining the program.

"I'm very happy," said DC coach David Kwan of the season. "They really think and really believe that this is the year the fortunes of this program in terms of getting back to the top three (in HCAC), getting to the conference tournament, getting a shot in the (HCAC Tournament) finals again can become a reality.

"We have a great combination of young, dynamic recruits that are coming in and contributing right away with Alicia Kalic being the most prominent one. Alicia has probably been my most talented setter since Jill Evans from Archbold."

The Wolverine state also brought Stephanie Wilson and libero Jill Forbear-Turner to the program this fall, also key additions according to Kwan.

DC will await the arrival of annual conference power Mount St. Joseph on Saturday, a big mid-season conference clash. The Lions join DC and Transylvania as the lone conference unbeatens.

"I think staying strong," said Rolander of keys for the rest of the season. "We need to stay there. At times it can be a roller coaster ride depending on who we're playing. But other than that it's just staying strong the entire way through the whole five games."

Rolander has a long line of awards during her career at Defiance with All-HCAC honors in volleyball and track.

"Marlea has been a staple of this program since her freshman year," said Kwan. "She has been fast to attack, highly athletic, a highly-driven kid that has always put up big numbers. She's looking to win and driving to win. More importantly she's contributing more from a leadership standpoint this year. This year she's really taking the reigns and taking control and knows that she's the mature one and this is the year. She has a lot of goals she wants to meet."

Meanwhile, Tietje is just happy to be back on the court after missing the majority of 2010 with mononucleosis.

"Jess missed the entire season last year," said Kwan. "We had her the first two weeks, then she got mono and that was it. Ever since she's gotten over mono over the spring and been really, really driven. When you come back from sitting out an entire season, you really get an appreciation for what opportunities you have. She's really taken to changing positions this year and playing on the outside and playing a large role in terms of getting a number of sets this year. I think she's really exciting."

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