Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Central Michigan volleyball coach Mike Gawlik has announced the signing of six players who will join the program for the 2018 season.
Four of the six signees hail from the state of Michigan, and the group comprises a libero, a setter, two middle blockers and two outside hitters, one of whom is also listed as a defensive specialist.
“We’re excited to welcome the group officially into our CMU volleyball family,” said Gawlik, who is in his second year in charge of the program. “Each one of them buys into the culture that we have been working hard to develop over the past two years and is committed to growing it even stronger.
“Among them is a mixture of ball control, physicality, volleyball IQ and size. One thing that is consistent with all of them is their ability to work hard, be great teammates, and hold a high standard on a daily basis. We expect big things from this group throughout their four years at CMU and look forward to integrating them into our family.”
The middle blockers are 6-foot-4 Megan Siversten of Virginia Beach, Va., and 6-3 Madison Whitfield of Ypsilanti.
Sivertsen “will give us some physicality on both the block and attack,” Gawlik said. “More than anything, I love her consistent work ethic. She’s been committed to being an elite player for quite some time, and it shows.”
Whitfield, who Gawlik said is particularly strong as a blocker and as an attacker off of one foot, plays with a quiet intensity and comes from a family of nine children.
“Maddie has had to be a ‘team player’ since birth and is low maintenance on the court,” he said. “We look for Maddie to anchor our blocking effort and score us point with her fast arm.”
Libero Kendall Braate of Byron Center, outside hitter/defensive specialist Lacey Juengel of Macomb, setter Gabrielle Kapuscinski of Cadillac, and outside hitter Savannah Thompson of Thornton, Ill. complete the class.
Thompson, Gawlik said, possesses the kind of “grit” he likes in a player along with a high volleyball IQ and elite passing and defensive skills and leadership qualities; Braate, who is listed at 5-11, is taller than the prototypical libero but possesses outstanding touch, court sense and athleticism; Juengel brings a “big-time arm” along with libero-like ball handling skills; and Kapuscinski is a strong player with great instincts.
Kendall Rae Braate • libero • 5-11 • Byron Center, Mich./ Byron Center HS
Four-year letter winner … three-time team captain … four-time All-Ottawa-Kent Conference-Green selection … three-time Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) All-Region pick … received AAU Academic All-American honors in 2014 … named an AAU Nationals All-American in 2015 … has appeared on the Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) Watch List annually beginning in 2014 … played club volleyball for Grand Rapids-based Far Out Volleyball Club. Gawlik on Braate: "Kendall’s ability to handle the ball gives her so many options for us. She has experience as a libero, attacker, and setter which has allowed her to understand the game from a lot of different angles. At 5-11, she’s taller/longer than most liberos, which will increase her range in the back court. She’s a great athlete with outstanding touch and court sense. She’s somewhat of a “Swiss-army knife” in that she has a lot of skills to contribute."
Lacey Juengel • def. specialist/outside hitter • 5-7 • Macomb, Mich./Dakota HS
Two-year letterwinner … named to All-Macomb County Class A First Team in 2017 … earned all-county Class A third team honors in ’16 … played for Michigan Elite. Gawlik on Juengel: "When you first see Lacey, you’ll underestimate her – which I love. That has fueled her to play with the chip on her shoulder. As a high-flying outside hitter with a heavy arm, Lacey combines libero-like ball handling with a big-time arm. She’s a fierce competitor that plays all-out regardless of whether or not it’s open gym, practice, or match night. Lacey only has one speed – full speed."
Gabrielle Kapuscinski • setter • 5-9 • Cadillac, Mich./Cadillac HS
Four-year letterwinner … recorded 580 career kills, 286 assists, 104 aces, 1,116 digs and 162 blocks … Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) Class B All-State honorable mention in 2016 … three-time Cadillac News All-Area Dream Team selection … named to Traverse City Record-Eagle All-Region Team in 2016 … All-Big North Conference Second Team selection in 2016 … All-Big North honorable mention in 2015 … also lettered in track & field … played for Inside Out Volleyball. Gawlik on Kapuscinski: "Gabby stood out to us for the first time at a setter camp we ran back in 2016. It didn’t take longer than a minute to know that she was the type of player we needed to know more about. She has a strong, natural touch and instinctively does some very crafty/savvy things with the ball. She is disciplined and a consistent hard worker, which is good as she’s striving to go to med school.
Megan Sivertsen • Middle Blocker • 6-5 • Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside HS
Four-year letter winner … named to All-Virginia High School League Beach District First Team in 2016, and to the Second Team in 2015 … was named to The Virginian Pilot All-Tidewater Second Team in 2016 … three-time AAU Academic All-American … two-time Virginia Volleyball Showcase All-Tournament Team pick … earned Bayside’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2016 … made the American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom Player List in 2015 and in 2016 … team captain … played 11 seasons for the Coastal Virginia Volleyball Club under coach Dave Albaugh. Gawlik on Siversten: "Megan has an infectious smile and personality that her teammates will love. Although she’s from Virginia, we’ve had our eyes on Megan for some time throughout her high school career. She will give us some physicality on both the block and attack. More than anything, I loved Megan’s consistent work ethic. She’s been committed to being an elite player for quite some time, and it shows."
Savannah Kay Thompson • middle hitter • 5-10 • Thornton, Ill./Marist HS
Three-year letterwinner … two-time team captain … earned All-East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC) in both 2016 and 2017 … earned ESCC Player fo the Year Award in 2017 … named one of three finalists for the Chicago Tribune Player of the Month for September, 2017 … named an Esmark All-American in 2017 … named Second Team All-Area by the Chicago Tribune in 2016 … led Marist to Class 4A state semifinals in 2017 … played club volleyball for Michigan Chicago Academy from 2011-2017/2018. Gawlik on Thompson: "Savannah personifies “grit” to us. It seems that every team that Savannah is on competes at a very high level, and that’s not by coincidence. Sav plays with a high volleyball IQ and uses all the tools to influence matches. She’s a high flyer with a big arm, but it’s her ability to pass and defend at an elite level that caught our eye first. She’s a leader that her teammates seem to love following."
Madison Whitfield • middle blocker • 6-3 • Saline, Mich./Saline HS
One of 10 finalists for 2017 Michigan Miss Volleyball … 2016 Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) All-State honorable mention … two-time MIVCA All-Region pick … three-time All-Southeastern Conference-Red selection … recorded 684 kills, 389 blocks and 44 aces during three-year high school career … played club volleyball for Michigan Elite. Gawlik on Whitfield: "Maddie plays with a quiet intensity that we love. As the seventh of nine kids, Maddie has had to be a “team player” since birth and is low maintenance on the court. Maddie shines as a blocker and attacker – especially off of one-foot – and works to be a consistent option in serve receive. We look for Maddie to anchor our blocking effort and score us point with her fast arm."