Cardinal Stritch's volleyball team is off to a rough start under first-year coach John Kazmaier, but the Cardinals plan to turn things up a notch once they start playing Toledo Area Athletic Conference opponents.
They always do.
The Cardinals, who were 17-4 and 8-0 in the TAAC last season, have won six straight conference championships.
"We've decided we're going for the TAAC championship again," Kazmaier said. "We are not going to be happy until we get at least that. And, they want to beat a couple of their rivals from last year in the tournament."
Kazmaier coached Whitmer's freshman volleyball team for one year and the junior varsity team for two years. He also has coached in Glass City Volleyball, a Junior Olympic club program, for three years.
His first Stritch team was off to a 1-3 start through Wednesday, with a win over Gibsonburg and losses to Maumee, Fostoria and Evergreen.
Still, Kazmaier said he likes what he's seen from his players.
"Their attitude is fantastic," he said. "We've got a lot of hard workers and a lot of seniors on our team, so we have a lot of experience. We have girls who aren't afraid to go out and make mistakes.
They go out and play aggressive and play hard.
"We're working on fine-tuning some of the skills we have. I'm looking to run more in the way of a quicker offense and some things they're not used to doing - a lot more jump serving and things like that. So far they've picked it up pretty good."
The Cardinals' returning seniors include captains Alex Blazevich, Elle McCloskey and Kristen Filzer. Blazevich is a 5-9 outside hitter, McCloskey is a 5-10 middle blocker and Filzer is a setter.
"Alex is a very smart player who has good court awareness, and she has big shot selection," Kazmaier said. "She can hit lines and hard angle shots, and she's very good defensively in the back row. She has a good vertical and a good arm swing.
"Elle has a fantastic attitude and she is definitely one of the emotional leaders. She always tries to stay positive. She's a multi-sport athlete who works hard for everything. Kristen shows a lot of hustle. I was told they took a couple girls last year who had never been setters before, Kristen and Brianna Wlodarz, and they are learning very quickly."
Wlodarz is a returning senior setter who is joined in the lineup by senior right side hitter Kaitlyn Filzer and senior libero Andrea Keane. Senior defensive specialist Katie Studer, a transfer from Perrysburg, will also see action.
Two returning juniors who saw varsity action last season are outside hitter Stacy Molnar and right side hitter Megan Peer.
"We're looking forward to having both of them again next year, coming back as senior leaders," Kazmaier said. "They are stepping up as juniors and doing a nice job."
The Cardinals have no sophomores on this year's squad, "but we have a good-looking crop coming up," according to Kazmaier.
"There is a lot of talent on our freshman and jayvee teams," he said. "Hopefully we'll bring some of them up and get them some playing time."
The coach added that this Stritch squad should round into form as the season rolls on.
"Being my first year, there is definitely a transition," Kazmaier said. "At the same time, these players are coming from a rich volleyball background and a good tradition at Stritch. They've won the TAAC the last few years, and we're the only TAAC school that has a freshman team. Everybody at Stritch — the administration, teachers, coaches, parents — has been phenomenal."