MEQUON, Wis. – It didn't take long to notice what the emphasis was at Concordia University Wisconsin's volleyball practice, as the majority of Saturday afternoon's session was all about the finer points and techniques of defense.
The old adage goes 'defense wins championships' and first-year head coach Janelle Gabrielsen is teaching every detail about the defensive side of the game. With a large number of returners on the court and an eager group of freshmen at training camp, the Falcons are looking to climb the ranks of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
"I really do value the defensive side of the game because we can't do anything else until we have our defensive schemes understood," Gabrielsen said. "We have a lot DSs (defensive specialists) and we need them to continue to keep improving and passing towards the setters, which will lead to a quicker offense."
A season ago, they finished eighth in the league earning the last spot in the tournament, but were ousted by regular season champion Edgewood College, 3-0, on the road. CUW's offense sputtered at times during 2012, only because its defense wasn't able to slow down the opposition, thus resulting in a .814 serve receive percentage and being outscored by 391 points in the first three sets.
"A lot of the players just need a little bit of fine tuning on their technique to become a better volleyball player," Gabrielsen said. "We worked a lot in the spring on the smaller things and we will continue to do that during training camp."
Three victories separated the Falcons from jumping to the fifth spot in the league last season and with 11 returns back that played significantly, the expectations and goals are higher entering the 2013 campaign.
"We definitely have a good chance to finish in the middle of the conference this year," Gabrielsen said. "I really feel finishing in the middle and even near the top of the NACC is attainable. Everyone is working hard in practice and the excitement is high right now."
Gabrielsen's new regime isn't going to be easy, evident by the first few training camp practices, but hard work and a high level of effort by each student-athlete on the roster will push CUW back to the top of the league and in contention for a championship.