Michelle Sicner is getting used to being a setter again.
The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be from Millard North has taken the reins of the Creighton volleyball team from Megan Bober, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year in her senior season.
“It's really nice getting back to the roots of setting again,” Sicner said. “I appreciate it a lot more.”
Sicner did a little bit of everything as a freshman, then played right-side hitter after losing a close battle with Bober for the starting setter job last fall. Learning a new position took most of her energy.
Still, she watched how Bober handled the hitters, which has become her prime focus during spring volleyball. Through repetition, she's learning what speed and height each hitter likes the ball.
She's also working to maintain the great chemistry that the Bluejays developed while going 29-4, including 17-1 in the Valley last fall. They finished 24th in the national rankings.
“It's a lot of mental work,” Sicner said. “As a setter, you are always making sure you have an eye on everything going on on the court. You are making sure you are communicating with hitters and passers. I'm making sure I'm pushing myself to be great.”
Bober led Creighton to its first Valley regular-season and tournament titles, and into the second round of the NCAA tournament last fall. Coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth is confident that Sicner — more of a finesse hitter — can do the job as the Bluejays move to the Big East.
That's where starting at the right-side spot comes in handy. Booth said Sicner won't be going through those “I've never played” jitters.
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At practice, she's trying to put Sicner in every possible scenario as often as possible so she'll be ready for anything on the court.
“She's got really great hands,” Booth said. “She is a true setter. She's doing a great job.”
Sicner didn't completely forsake setting last season. She spent some time directing the scout team, which has helped her connection with some up-and-coming hitters like middle blockers Lauren Smith and Savannah Smith, whom Booth said have had good springs.
“Our scout side sometimes would beat our starting side,” Sicner said. “It was always competitive. I loved it.”
Sicner will get one of her biggest challenges of the spring in Friday's 7 p.m. match at Nebraska.
“We know it's going to be a high level and competitive game,” she said. “I think it will be a lot of energy. Everybody is going to put out a lot of effort. We want to beat them and we want to win.”
Creighton is 1-1 this spring, with a win against South Dakota and a five-set loss to Iowa State.
Records, though, aren't what counts, Booth said. Now is when players get a chance to prove themselves. She's encouraging them to take risks and try new things.
“As competitors, you always want to win,” she said. “In the spring, the focus is getting better to get ready for the fall. You get all these matches to mess with that you can't mess with in the fall.”
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