Big Rapids, Mich. - With fall preseason camp officially underway for the Ferris State University football team, next up are the Bulldog volleyball and women's soccer programs, which officially report for preseason workouts this weekend.
Both teams will hold their first practices on Monday in Big Rapids following initial testing and official check-in activities. Along with the normal preseason practices, both teams will also participate in several scrimmages before camp comes to a close. Team meetings, presentations and conditioning are also part of the various scheduled preseason activities for one or both squads.
The Bulldog volleyball squad, which is the defending NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Champion, was chosen second in the 2014 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division Preseason Coaches Poll as was the football squad. Ferris State will enter the 2014 campaign with high hopes again after advancing to the Elite Eight a year ago under veteran head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm. Five starters and 10 letterwinners return for the Bulldogs, including a pair of All-GLIAC performers in talented hitters Courtney Rehm and Alexis Huntey.
Sophomore Stephanie Sikorski also returns at the setter position after an impressive freshman campaign with senior hitter Caroline Heitzman and junior Megan Vander Meer also back in the Bulldog lineup. Ferris State, which placed tied for second in the GLIAC North a year ago before its postseason run, will be seeking its 19th NCAA Tournament appearance this year. A talented incoming freshman class will help offset the loss of a pair of seniors from last year, which includes the GLIAC Libero of the Year in Brandie Merren.
Meanwhile, the Ferris State women's soccer team will enter its second campaign under head coach Andy McCaslin with a strong nucleus returning for the 2014 season. A total of 16 letterwinners are back this fall, including a pair of All-GLIAC honorees in junior forward Nichole Boehnke and junior midfielder Abby Meirndorf. FSU also welcomes back its top nine overall scorers from 2013 and the returners accounted for 29 of Ferris State's 30 goals last season.
Ferris State Volleyball is slated to open the fall 2014 season by taking part in the highly-competitive University of Tampa Invitational from Sept. 4-6 in Tampa, Fla. The Bulldogs begin the year against national power and host Tampa on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. (ET) and will also face Tusculum, Central Missouri and Indianapolis in the strong season-opening field over the following two days. FSU's home opener will not be until Sept. 19 when Walsh visits the Ewigleben Sports Arena for a league encounter.
The Bulldog women's soccer team starts the year on Sept. 5 as FSU squares off against Truman State (Mo.) in the Ramada Plaza Invitational hosted by GVSU starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET) in Allendale. FSU then faces Quincy (Ill.) on Sept. 7 in the same event before taking on Saginaw Valley State in the home opener on Sept. 14 at the FSU Soccer Fied. The 2014 campaign will represent the 16th season of Bulldog women's soccer since the program's inception in 1999.
In volleyball, Ferris State closed a memorable 2013 campaign with a 25-9 overall record after nearly pulling off a major win over eventual national runner-up BYU-Hawaii in their first appearance deep on the national stage since the late 1980's. FSU, which made its 18th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance last fall, claimed a regional crown to reach the Elite Eight and national quarterfinals for only the third time in school history and first since 1989.
Last year marked Ferris State's first regional championship since previously winning two back in 1987 and 1989. The Bulldogs reached at least the regional semifinals for the third year in a row and have now made the NCAA Tournament nine times under Brandel-Wilhelm, who led FSU to the Elite Eight for the first time in her tenure after notching her 500th career victory in an exciting 3-2 comeback win over archrival Grand Valley State in the Midwest Regional title match in Allendale.
The Bulldogs also placed tied for second last season in the GLIAC with a 15-3 overall record, reached the conference tournament for the 16th consecutive year and posted 20 wins or more for the 12th time in 18 seasons under Brandel-Wilhelm's direction.
On the women's soccer pitch, the Bulldogs posted a second consecutive winning campaign for the first time in school history last year while reaching the league tournament semifinals for only the third time in the program's 15 years. Last season also marked Ferris State's fourth consecutive conference tournament appearance, which is the longest stretch in school history. FSU's trip to the semifinals also represented the first time in school history in which the Bulldogs have advanced to the second round of the conference tournament in back-to-back years.
FSU closed the 2013 campaign with a 7-1 overall record at home last season and the lone loss was a 1-0 non-conference setback to rival and eventual national champion Grand Valley State. Overall, FSU outscored the opponents by a 23-4 count in Big Rapids with five shutouts. Last fall also represented only the sixth time in the program's 15-year history in which the Bulldogs have won at least nine contests in a season.
The GLIAC will officially launch its 2014 women's soccer preseason coaches poll and media day website on Tuesday.