By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, Ohio---The No. 3 Owens Community College women's volleyball team will open its 2017 regular season with a top 10 matchup against No. 7 Kirkwood Community College at 11 a.m. on Friday as part of the Battle of the Dells Invitational in Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.
The matchup will be the first of four this weekend for the Express, who will also face No. 11 Des Moines Area Community College at 1 p.m. on Friday before taking on North Iowa Area Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College on Saturday.
"We're excited for the season to begin," said Owens head women's volleyball coach Sonny Lewis. "The team is ready to start playing games that count. We begin the season playing in the tough Wisconsin Dells Invitational against the seventh and 11th ranked teams in the country. The team is pumped and ready to start the season."
In 2016, Owens finished 41-5 overall and 14-0 in Ohio Community College Athletic Conference (OCCAC) play. The team won the Region XII District F championship and advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Tournament before finishing third, which was the best finish in program history at the Division II level.
Entering this season, Owens must replace five key players - defensive specialist Brooke Gyori (Clay/Oregon, Ohio), setter/right side hitter Christine Tylutki (Monroe/Monroe, Mich.), outside hitter Annie Lindeman (Ottoville/Ottoville, Ohio), middle blocker Tyanna Smith (Bowling Green/Bowling Green, Ohio) and outside hitter Ashley Pleiman (Fort Loramie/Fort Loramie, Ohio). Gyori signed with NCAA Division I University of Tennessee at Martin, Lindeman and Smith signed with NAIA Shawnee State University and Tylutki signed with NAIA Siena Heights University.
It's a Reload, Not a Rebuild
Defensively, Niki Polce (Huron/New Boston, Mich.), who played in every match and had 392 digs last year, will step into the primary defensive specialist role vacated by Gyori. In 2016, she had 15 matches with at least 10 digs, including a season-high 29 digs in the final match of the season to help the team clinch a third-place finish at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. She was named Honorable Mention All-OCCAC. Backing her up will be freshman defensive specialist Cassidy Wlodarz (Cardinal Stritch/Oregon, Ohio), who was the Toledo Area Athletic Conference (TAAC) player of the year while leading Stritch to its first TAAC championship in seven years as a senior.
In the middle, Owens returns Devon Heitkamp (New Bremen/New Bremen, Ohio), who produced 287 kills and 154 blocks (15 solo) over 46 matches as a freshman. She finished fourth on the team in kills as well as third in solo blocks and second in total blocks. Helping to make up for the loss of Smith in the middle will be freshman Jordan Alt (Ottawa-Glandorf/Ottawa, Ohio), a hard-hitting two-time First Team All-Western Buckeye League (WBL) and All-Ohio selection.
On the outside, Owens will feature eight players including the return of Erika Angstmann (St. Marys/St. Marys, Ohio), Olivia Hermiller (Ottawa-Glandorf/Ottawa, Ohio), Leah Ballenger (Fremont Ross/Fremont, Ohio) and Madison Lammers (New Knoxville/New Knoxville, Ohio). Angstmann produced 347 kills, 325 digs, 96 blocks (23 solo) and 53 aces in a key role as a freshman. She finished second on the team in kills, aces and solo blocks en route to First Team All-OCCAC recognition. Hermiller, a right side hitter, had 92 kills and 33 blocks (five solo) over 42 matches. Lammers, meanwhile, missed last season due to an injury after breaking her school's single season blocks record and earning First Team All-Midwest Athletic Conference (MAC) recognition as a senior. She will play a key role this year. Ballenger was limited to 15 matches due to injury as a freshman, but produced four kills, four aces and 12 digs in a reserve role.
In addition to those four, several newcomers will look to make their mark and help Owens replace Tylutki, Lindeman and Pleiman on the outside. They are Ally Angstmann (St. Marys/St. Marys, Ohio), the younger sister of Erika, Brynn DuVall (Bedford/Temperance, Mich.), Michaela Eisenhauer (Margaretta/Bellevue, Ohio) and Kennedy Ames (Milan Edison/Norwalk, Ohio). The younger Angstmann had 338 kills, 355 digs, 37 aces and 35 blocks as a senior at St. Marys and finished her career with over 1,000 kills along with 1,245 digs. DuVall was a Monroe Evening News All-Region selection who helped lead Bedford to three state final four appearances. Eisenhauer was a First Team All-Sandusky Bay Conference (SBC) and Third Team All-Ohio selection at Margaretta, and Ames earned Honorable Mention All-Ohio recognition at Milan Edison.
Tylutki, who had one of the best all-around seasons as a sophomore last year with 845 assists, 329 digs, 272 kills, 117 blocks, 50 aces and a .322 hitting percentage, is gone, but sliding right in at setter is Carrigan Gray (Liberty-Benton/Findlay, Ohio), who had 742 assists, 259 digs and 32 aces last year. She had double digit assists in all but eight matches and closed the season with 12 straight matches of at least 12 assists. She had five double-doubles in assists and digs, too. Lammers will also see time this year at setter, while newcomer Summer Sweeting (South Central/North Fairfield, Ohio) will also play a key role after earning First Team All-Firelands Conference and Honorable Mention All-Ohio accolades after surpassing 1,300 career assists in high school.
Angstmann, Heitkamp and Gray will serve as the team's tri-captains this year.
Highest Opening Ranking
Owens is ranked No. 3 in the first National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II poll of the season, which is the highest ranking in program history for a season-opening poll. For more info on that, visit here.
Looking For No. 600
Owens head women's volleyball coach Sonny Lewis, who is entering his 17th season as the leader of the program, enters the 2017 season with an overall record of 585-189 (.756). He is thus on pace to capture his 600th win and coach his 800th match this season.
Over the past three seasons alone, Lewis has led Owens to a 115-23 (.833), including a 40-2 record in OCCAC play. That stretch has included back-to-back OCCAC championships, a pair of Region XII District F tournament titles and two appearances in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, including a pair of top 10 finishes and the best finish in program history at the NJCAA Division II level last year.
During his 16-year tenure, Owens has captured 13 OCCAC championships (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016) and five Region XII District E/F titles (2003, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016). At the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, the has finished third (2016), fourth (2012), fifth (2003) and ninth (2015) under his guidance. On top of that, Lewis is an eight-time OCCAC coach of the year (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2015) and a five-time Region XII District E/F coach of the year (2003, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016).
Benchmark Year For Caldwell
One of the big reasons for the success of the Owens volleyball program in recent history is the coaching tandem of Lewis and assistant coach Dennis Caldwell, who is now entering his 10th year with the program. Over his first nine seasons, Owens has compiled a 340-104 (.766) record, while capturing six OCCAC championships and four Region XII District E/F championships.
New, Familiar Face
With the departure of assistant coach Bill Bonham, who was a key member of the team's coaching staff the past two seasons, Kristen Gyori will begin her first year with the program in 2017. Gyori, who is the older sister of two-time NJCAA All-American Brooke Gyori (2015-16), is also a former Owens volleyball player. The Clay High School graduate was a setter for the Express in 2007-08 when she helped the team compile a 75-28 record. She also helped the team win back-to-back OCCAC championships with a 21-1 record.
Owens, which has won the past two conference championships, has won 28 straight conference matches over the past two seasons. The program's most recent loss in conference play came against Columbus State Community College on Oct. 25, 2014. Furthermore, Owens has the most conference volleyball championships (15) in OCCAC history.
Aug. 30 - Owens opens conference play at Lorain County at 6 p.m.
Sept. 1-3 - Owens hosts their own invitational with matchups against six opponents over three days.
Sept. 9 - Owens hosts an alumni scrimmage at 1 p.m.
Sept. 23-24 - Owens heads to the Parkland Invitational where it will take on No. 1 Parkland College among its four opponents over two days.
Sept. 30 - Owens hosts Edison at 11 a.m. following the introduction of the second Owens athletics hall of fame class that morning.
Oct. 6-7 - Owens travels to Hickory, N.C. for the Catawba Valley Invitational. One of their opponents will be No. 4 Catawba Valley, who Owens defeated in the third/fourth place match at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament last year.
Nov. 3-4 - Region XII District F tournament
Nov. 16-18 - NJCAA Division II National Tournament in Charleston, W.V.
While you can follow the Owens volleyball team all season at OwensExpress.com, you can also find great content at our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages. Our Twitter handle is @owensexpress, and you can find the other three by searching Owens Express Athletics while in the app.
Preseason Video Links
2017 video roster - here
Owens opens scrimmage season - here
Owens opens fall practice - here