FORMER VIKINGS LEADING FERRIS STATE TO BANNER YEAR!
Story By Joseph Hayes
Port Huron Times-Herald
The Ferris State University volleyball team is having a season to be remembered.
Playing a big part in the Bulldogs' success is a pair of Marysville High School grads.
Libero Lisa Tobiczyk and outside/middle hitter Mallory Kopa have been two consistent cogs in the Bulldogs lineup.
After defeating Ashland in three games Saturday, the Bulldogs improved to 11-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and 15-1 overall.
They have won 10 consecutive games entering the week.
"We have a mature team," said Kopa, a redshirt junior who graduated from Marysville in 2007. "Everyone is playing and working really hard. Everything is clicking because of all of the hard work.
"We've had some hiccups in the past where we had younger players on the floor and it wasn't really clicking. Right now everything is smooth. It feels like a well-oiled machine."
Kopa has contributed 28 kills for the Bulldogs this season, and Tobiczyk is leading the team with 221 digs.
"We are very pleased with how the season is going," said Tobiczyk, a redshirt senior captain who won two state championships with the Vikings (2004 and 2006) before graduating in 2006.
"We had a lot of goals, and we have been focused in practice. It feels great to be a leader and acknowledged as a captain, but we have a lot of leaders on the team. We have a lot of experience."
Ferris State coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm said both players have filled key roles for the team.
"Lisa is in her fifth year, and she has become one of the best liberos in the country," Brandel-Wilhelm said. "She is a great passer, server and defender. She also leads in a way that makes her invaluable on the court.
"Mallory is a phenomenal blocker and a great leader on our defense. The GLIAC is really a tough conference. Anytime you can win in the conference, you are happy with that. Our team has been pretty good the last few years. We were one or two wins away from being a great team.
"This year we have a little more experience. We have great leadership. That really helps us get over the top," Brandel-Wilhelm said.
The Bulldogs are gunning for a trip to the NCAA Tournament. In order to do so, they will have to finish at the top of their conference to get a regional berth and then win that ensuing tournament.
"The key for us will be constant improvement," Tobiczyk said. "In years past, we had good teams but plateaued early in the season. We need to improve every practice."
The only thing the Marysville alums would like to change about the current season would be the unexpected news of their former coach John Knuth's heart attack.
"Lisa and I were pretty shocked to hear about that," Kopa said. "We were really worried. It doesn't seem possible that this is happening. He's such a strong guy. He's in our prayers always. The other (Marysville) alumni are keeping us up to date with everything. It's shocking.
"We're really proud of where we come from. We always try to keep the legacy of Marysville going. It's not just winning but how we compose ourselves and use everything coach Knuth taught us over the years. We want to keep that going."
"The whole (Ferris State) team was really supportive, praying for him and thinking about him," Tobiczyk added. "We were very surprised, but I'm happy to hear he's doing a lot better. The core things I learned from Marysville still contributes to my success now. We learned how to perform under pressure and hold yourself accountable."
Tobiczyk will graduate in December with a double major in human resource management and business administration.
Kopa, meanwhile, is making headway in her hospitality/hotel management major.
But before they move on, they have some unfinished business on the court, and they will enjoy playing with each other while fulfilling their goals.
"It's exciting to play with her," Tobiczyk said. "We've been through ups and downs together and won a lot of big games and lost some heartbreakers, too.
"We want to finish strong."