MEQUON, Wis. – It doesn't take long to see Concordia University Wisconsin is going to set the tone defensively with its middle blockers. They are the enforcers up front, communicating where opposing hitters are attacking and changing the momentum with a single play.
Last season the Falcons strength on defense was its ability to stop opposing hitters, ranking fourth in the Northern Athletics Conference in total blocks (206) and 66th in the nation in blocks per set (1.93). They had six matches with double-digit blocks and 20 with at least six rejections.
There aren't going to be many unknowns regarding the middle blockers on this year's roster with junior Britta Duchow (Potter, Wis.) returning to bolster the middle, senior Lauren Dumke (Wauwatosa, Wis.) moving into her new role and junior Gabrielle VanBeaver (Green Bay, Wis.) always showing vast potential.
"I think we can be incredible," Dumke said. "All three of us are incredibly strong players and can put up a huge block. With the three of us, I don't think much is going to get past us, which is really exciting."
A year ago, Duchow paced the team with 91 total blocks, setting multiple career highs throughout and showing she was a player to be relied on.
"In all honesty, I didn't know how well I performed last year until I looked at the numbers not that long ago," Duchow said. "We have improved a lot during training camp and the middle blockers performing well will help our back row immensely."
The transition is still a work in progress for Dumke to completely becoming a middle blocker, but with her skillset and leadership it won't take long. Last season, Dumke played as a right side hitter and posted 48 kills.
"Things are going well so far," Dumke said. "The game is quicker in the middle and I like playing the position better because you have a hand in everything. It takes more leadership to be a middle blocker because it is a huge communication spot on the court."
VanBeaver exploded onto the scene during her freshman campaign with 77 total blocks and constantly shows progress each practice. The trio has the potential to be the best middle blocking group in the conference, which would vault the Falcons back on the radar of many teams.
There is only one play that can inject as much enthusiasm into the Falcons and its fans beside a hard kill down the line -- a timely block with the set on the line and the match hanging in the balance.