Volleyball finishes regular season strong

Noah Cloonan

The Ashland University volleyball team closed out their regular season with a thrilling victory over the Findlay Oilers, a game that really defined their season.

From AU head coach Cass Dixon’s 100th win of her career, to their undefeated season at home and their nine game winning streak, the 2016 season was one to remember for the Eagles and it is not over yet. 

It all started back on Sept. 1 when a group of strong veterans and a loaded freshmen class took the court at the Angelina Miele Memorial Tournament. The Eagles went 4-0 in the tournament, starting off their season with a bang. 

The next weekend brought a new set of challenges for the Eagles as they struggled at the University of Indianapolis Tournament dropping three out of their four matches. 

Cass Dixon got her 100th win as head coach in a victory over the Malone Pioneers as she became just the third coach in AU volleyball history to achieve that mark.

After the historic win, AU scuffled again as they took on Findlay and Wayne State in their first GLIAC conference games of the season. 

These losses caused them to drop to  6-5, though the season was still young.

The Eagles stopped the bleeding as they came home and beat Michigan Tech, sparking a four game win streak. 

Ashland struggled on a long road trip that featured games against the GLIAC regular season champion, the Ferris State Bulldogs. A little over halfway through the season the Eagles sat at 10-8 overall and 4-5 in the GLIAC.

This is where the Eagles turned it on and they never looked back. They finished the season on an 11-1 run, including a nine-game winning streak, to propel them to second place in the GLIAC South and gave them a home playoff game. 

“I think we did a great job of progressing throughout the season,” Dixon said. “We continued to get better everyday that we stepped into practice or on the court for a match.  The first part of the year was tough being on the road so much but we made the most of our situation and have used it to continue to excel as a program.”  

The Eagles have been led all season by All-American, Alli Cudworth, who is currently third in the GLIAC in kills with 430 and second in the GLIAC in serves aces with 53. 

Cudworth received the GLIAC South player of the week award in the first week of the season and the last week of the season. She needs just 33 kills to become the third player at AU to have 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career.

One of the current members of that club is fellow senior, Casey Clark. Clark has been a workhorse all season for the Eagles as she has been called upon to play many different positions, but has continued to put up tremendous numbers for AU. She is one of two players all time at AU to be a part of the 1,000-1,000 and she leads the team with 403 digs on the year and is second in kills with 257. 

“Casey has proven to be a great leader in our program,” Dixon said. “ You don’t hear of many volleyball players reaching the 1,000 kill mark nor the 1,000 dig mark and having achieved both of those is an exceptional feat.  She inspires her teammates not only through her words but her play as well.  She’s a play maker regardless if she’s in the front row attacking or in the back row digging.”

Clark and Cudworth are both very strong players and they will leave big shoes to fill following the 2016 season.

Luckily for Coach Dixon, the underclassmen on the Eagle roster are following closely in the footsteps behind their older teammates. 

Freshman Shelby Woycik made her mark on the Eagle’s 2016 season as she totaled 245 kills in the regular season and will likely be in the running for the GLIAC Freshman of the year award. 

Another freshmen that contributed greatly to the success of the team was Sophi Cudworth. Sophi, Alli’s sister, was a highly touted prospect and she lived up to the hype as she saw increased playing time down the stretch of the season and proved to be a major piece in the puzzle for the Eagles. 

She recorded 111 kills on the year. 

As the Eagles enter the GLIAC tournament, their future seems promising. If they continue performing as they have throughout their final month of season, Eagle volleyball could be looking to make their seventh  trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Eagles defeated the Wayne State Warriors in the GLIAC tournament on Nov. 16 as they will now move on to the GLIAC semifinals on Nov. 19.