Photo by Hillary Ehlen
In her second season as head NDSU volleyball coach, Jennifer Lopez looks to build off last year’s 19-9 run.
On team youth:
I think last year we were pretty fortunate in our position to have had the returners that we did. We had some upperclassmen that we were able to look to as leaders. Coming into this year, yeah, we don’t have as many upperclassmen. We have one senior and two juniors, but with the sophomores we’re going to have and the freshman we’re bringing in, we’re going to have all the pieces. We’ll be able to groom them within our system early on.
The Bison feature only one senior, McKenzie Burke, on 2018’s roster.
Discussing a tough non-conference schedule:
It’s tough. You’re asking your kids to go into something that half of them have never even experienced before. It’s honestly the opportunity, we want them to be better, we want this program to be better. In order to do that, we’re going to have to play some good competition. Being able to go against those schools to better ourselves and play at a different level is good, we just need to see that earlier in our season.
NDSU had non-conference match-ups with 2017 NCAA Tournament teams Minnesota and Northern Iowa. They also faced off with Arkansas and TCU.
The differences coming into last season compared to this season:
Preparing. Now I know what direction I want to go, how I want to move, how we continue to build our program and train our players. We were able to do that this spring whereas we weren’t last spring. They have a little bit more background and we just continue to build off that.
Lopez came into 2017 with the interim title attached to her name. That was removed in October and she has been the head coach ever since.
How to improve upon 2017’s 19-9 record:
You take one day at a time. Yes, it was a successful season, but our whole mentality here is we’re never going to settle. We want to continue to get better and continue to challenge ourselves. We may see some roadblocks early in the season, but that is what is going to make us better in the long run.
Reaction to North Dakota coming into the Summit League in 2018:
Now we just play them twice a year instead of once. I think the rivalry will be there for both games, home and away. It’s always an exciting game and it’s something that means a lot. Hopefully, we can continue that excitement.
“It’s tough. You’re asking your kids to go into something that half of them have never even experienced before. It’s honestly the opportunity, we want them to be better, we want this program to be better.”
On the competition the Summit League offers:
The Summit League, in general, is going to be very strong. Everyone graduated players, but they bring back a lot of returners too. It’s a pretty even wash, I think it’ll be really competitive, there’s a lot of schools that are going to be competing at a pretty high level. That is exciting for us.
How does NDSU volleyball become the Cal Poly or Western Kentucky of 2018:
We just stay the course. You cannot set your sights so far ahead that you’re not taking care of business early on. With as young as we’re going to be and learning through different things, that will have to be our mentality. They also know that too, to just take one day at a time. We just have to take care of our business and get better and push ourselves.
Cal Poly and Western Kentucky upset Notre Dame and Denver respectively in 2017’s NCAA Tournament.
What fans should be expecting to see from Bison volleyball in 2018:
It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a lot of new faces, but it’s what this team does that will create some excitement around NDSU volleyball. And I think they’ll do that, I like the players returning and the crew we’re bringing in and the things we’re going to do.