First-year Cardinal Stritch volleyball coach John Kazmaier won't say coaching the Cardinals was easy this season. His eight seniors only made it look that way.
"It was easy to come into the program new and have a lot of the experience already on the court," Kazmaier said.
The Cardinals used that experience to their advantage this season en route to capturing the school's seventh straight Toledo Area Athletic Conference title. Stritch, which finished 14-8, and Toledo Christian split two head-to-head matches and ended up tying for the championship with 9-1 TAAC records.
"We had a lot of experience, which was great," Kazmaier said. "Six of the eight seniors had played all four years in the Stritch program. It was nice to have that playing experience and that time they spent together. They knew each other's ins and outs and their passing style and what their favorite sets were."
The Cardinals' seniors were captains Alex Blazevich, Elle McCloskey and Kristen Filzer along with Kaitlyn Filzer, Bri Wlodarz, Andrea Keane, Kayla Leonard and Katie Studer.
The Cardinals' season came to an end at the Division III sectional tournament at Genoa, where second-seeded Stritch had a first-round bye. The Cardinals then lost to Lake in five games in the second round.
The loss left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
"We won the first two games," Kazmaier said, "but I think Lake just wanted it a little bit more. It was disappointing. Unfortuantely for us, we had our homecoming dance Saturday night and the girls were looking forward to that and not focused on volleyball. Some girls were trying to really stay focused and, despite their best effort, it was too much with everything going on."
Kazmaier added that the loss didn't diminish what the team accomplished in 2009, especially for the seniors.
"They knew a lot about the program and they were entrenched in the tradition for four years," he said. "They knew what it was all about to be a Cardinal volleyball player. They really took that seriously. They cared about the program and they wanted to succeed."
Blazevich, an outside hitter, and Kristen Filzer, a setter, earned first-team All-TAAC honors while second-team honors went to junior middle blocker Samantha Uher and Keane, a libero. Wlodarz and junior Stacy Molnar earned honorable mention honors.
Blazevich led the Cardinals in kills, while Keane led the team in digs and Kristen Filzer led in assists.
Stritch will have a strong nucleus returning next season in Molnar, an outside hitter, Uher and junior right side hitter Megan Peer.
"Stacy Molnar puts in a lot of hard work and a lot of effort in practices and games, and she is also very aggressive," Kazmaier said. "She is never afraid to hit the ball, even if it hits the back wall. She doesn't get discouraged, and that's a good quality to have in a hitter.
"Samantha is coming into her own as a blocker and starting to get her footwork down and really playing tall at the net. With her vertical and her reach, she is one of the biggest hitters on the team. She can put a ball down 10 feet off the net. She gets up pretty well. Megan may be setting for me next year. She has good hands on the right-hand side and a good, solid block."
Kazmaier will also look for junior back row player Sara Inderreiden to have a strong senior year.
"She's a very consistent passer in the back row," the coach said. "She reads hitters very well and just has a good attitude. Our freshman and jayvee teams both did well this year, so we look to be pretty strong in the next few years as well. I'm looking forward to next year and on down the road."