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Bolser named Peru Tribune Volleyball Player of the Year

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Last year was one where North Miami volleyball always seemed on the cusp of having a breakthrough season yet never seemed to get the result that would send them to new heights.

A senior-less squad entered the 2017 campaign looking to change that and made significant strides throughout the season, finishing 28-4 overall, tied for second in the TRC and champions at the Rossville, Eastbrook and Whitko Invitationals.

Leading the charge was a junior class that contained that knocked off milestones as quickly as they knocked off teams on the court, led by the Peru Tribune’s Volleyball Player of the Year Cailyn Bolser.

Bolser said the offseason was a short one with basketball and club volleyball beginning almost immediately after the conclusion of the previous campaign.

“Well, I cried a little because volleyball season was over,” Bolser said about the end of the 2016 season. “Usually, we start club volleyball a couple of weeks later with tryouts and set up our teams.

“Last year was different because I switched to Fort Wayne Impact, which was a great decision as I improved a bunch over the course of the offseason. Basketball also started right after the season ended, so there was that practice, club practice three times every week and tournaments almost every weekend once the season starts.”

Bolser led the team in kills (465), blocks (92) and aces (38) while accounting for 290 digs, 179 serve receptions and 10 assists in 91 sets throughout 2017.

Bolser credited many of her offseason improvements to the change in club team, noting that it made her more confident in helping others during the season.

“I improved on my block timing, hitting form, defense and overall knowledge of the game,” Bolser said. “My coach (Jay Golsteyn) is very knowledgeable in the game, an All-American and played at IPFW and he brought all that knowledge into practices and games, pushing me so that I learned how to push myself.

“At practice, if I saw things that might be able to help someone, I would tell them and try to lead by example.”

North Miami head coach Karise Kabage said the changes from season-to-season were very evident when Bolser and teammate Adria Hartley returned from AAU Nationals over the summer.

“There was a little bit more crispness to how she played,” Kabage said. “There was more precise movement, more consistent timing with her blocking and hitting and her defense improved tenfold from the previous year.

“She was already one of our better passers, even as a freshman and sophomore, but it was the recognition of higher level play when she got back to us that was noticeable. We had practiced without her and Adria while they were at Nationals, so we were trying to develop our team without our two best players but once we got them back, it was such an exciting thought of how good the team could be entering the season, which was something I hadn’t felt since the first season here.”

With no seniors on the North Miami squad this season, Bolser said the group rallied around one another, strengthening the group as a whole throughout the year.

“We grew as a team because it became more of a family,” Bolser noted. “We’re all good friends throughout the year and we brought that friendship to the court.

“There were some times where there was some tough love because we had to push each other during the offseason and practices. By doing that, that helped our record improve and our work ethic, which helped in the tough games we played this year.

“Last year, we would lose a match to Rochester in three sets while this year, we took them to five sets because we had the endurance, the push and the effort,” Bolser added.

The Warriors began the year 4-1, falling for the first time to Rochester in the season while coming back from a set down to defeat Northwestern at the Tom-Hawk Tournament, a win that showed the team good things were on the horizon according to Bolser.

“It’s exciting to get wins like that because you could see the big jump in improvement that we had made from the year before, especially that early in the season,” Bolser said. “That allowed us to get started on a good note and get excited for the season.

“It was also good to see Northwestern and Rochester, teams we were going to play later in the season. It was good to play them and see what we needed to improve on so we could beat those teams later.”

The team sped through the next five games before having to dig out a win against Wabash, then falling to Tippecanoe Valley on the road.

Bolser said the loss was a reality check but one the team responded well to.

“Our confidence level, since we were winning games almost easily, was high and our intensity level was high,” Bolser said. “We wanted to win all the time.

“The Tippecanoe Valley game was a bit of a shocker because we knew we could have won that game but it was also a good thing because it forced us to focus so that we could continue to beat teams as the season went on. We kept pushing and hoping for the best for the season.”

A 10-match winning streak followed the loss leading up to the second meeting of the season with Rochester.

The Warriors got off to a rotten start, losing the first two sets before winning the next two sets, eventually falling in the deciding fifth set.

Despite the loss, Bolser noted there was an attitude change during the game that the team, in previous years, would not have been able to bring out of themselves.

“The week of the Rochester game, we were hyped up and excited but we got uptight and nervous to start the game,” Bolser said. “Once the game started and they were beating us, we started to question ourselves.

“After the second set, we realized this was all-or-nothing and that we had to win the next set if we wanted to beat them. We came together as a team before the set, decided that we had to beat this team no matter what and we focused on the things that had been chipping away at us.

“We brought intensity into the rest of that game and even though we lost, I was so proud of the team because we never had seen everyone work so hard,” Bolser added. “We were dying afterwards because we wanted that game so bad but it showed the improvements we had made and the intensity we could bring.”

North Miami only dropped a single set until sectionals, when Rochester reared up one more time to end the season for the Warriors.

Kabage said that by the end of the season, the team had been buoyed by their success and formed bonds that previous teams had not.

“This team was more confident, especially the juniors,” Kabage said. “It was a team that was having fun out there, was playing together all the time and a group that was legitimately friends, which helped out.

“They welcomed the underclassmen and the JV players, which was a huge difference from the team this year compared to the team last year.”

With one more year of play still to go, Kabage said Bolser could be a complete player by the time her senior season rolls around with additional work this offseason.

“For Cailyn, it’s more about being consistent and confident 100 percent of the time,” Kabage said. “Even in games where she is playing well, they are times where she still doubts herself.

“Maybe a more drastic improvement would be in the back row with serving and being in the mindset of being a back row player. In the front row, she knows what she’s doing but sometimes in the back line, there’s self-doubt.

“It’s not as much about the physical side, it’s more the mental side and being confident in everything she does,” Kabage added.

Bolser understood the work that was still left to do and wanted to make sure everyone was pulling in the same direction come next season.

“Some of the confidence in the team needs to be boosted,” Bolser said. “We have good athletes but if the confidence wavers, positions waver and it feels like play with five-and-a-half players when we need six on the court.

“Building confidence throughout the team will be a big part of next year, as well as pushing ourselves at practice all the time. If we do that, we can be a really good team.

“Between now and then, there’s club volleyball, weightlifting and basketball,” Bolser added. “We all state in contact with each other because we’re all friends. 

“I will continue to work hard so that I’m not rusty at the beginning of the season and try to work with everyone so that when the season begins next year, we’re ready to play.”

Peru Tribune All-County Volleyball Team

POY: Cailyn Bolser (NM)

OH: Emily Bowyer (Maconaquah)

MH: Adria Hartley (North Miami)

S: Morgan Hoover (North Miami)

S: Maegan Sinkovics (Peru)

DS: Alice Miller (Maconaquah)

DS: Shelby Spence (Maconaquah)

 

L: Marlie Halterman (North Miami)