Like most of her teammates, Megan Schmale has seen this before.
And that helps.
A sophomore on a sophomore-laden team, Schmale is off to a strong start for the University of Nebraska at Omaha team that is getting ready for its second trip through the Summit League. That starts with Saturday’s 5 p.m. match with Western Illinois at Sapp Fieldhouse.
"Megan is being the big player that we know she can be,” Mavericks coach Rose Shires said. “It’s maturity and experience. That fact that she’s been on the court a full year and gained experience — she knows what it looks like and she’s used to the speed of play.”
A 6-foot middle blocker from Murdock, Neb., Schmale leads the Summit with 1.42 blocks per set — which ranks 13th in Division I. She’s also sixth in the conference with a .279 hitting percentage.
“All you need is a lot of experience and a lot of reps,” Schmale said. “I’ve gotten a ton better, and we’ve all gotten a ton better. When I came in as a freshman, we had to get right into team stuff right away and couldn’t focus as much on fundamentals. Then we were able to work on that in the spring and it got me more confident and more prepared.”
At 5-10 after Wednesday’s win against Drake, UNO is also riding some confidence as it enters Summit play. The Mavs were 6-22 overall last season, including 1-15 in their first season in the Summit.
Schmale said .500 in league play is a good goal this season.
“I think we can compete and do well against all of the teams,” she said.
UNO’s lone league win last year was against Western Illinois, a road five-setter that snapped a six-match skid. The Mavs then lost their final 12 matches, including a home rematch with Western Illinois in four sets.
Western Illinois, picked to finish seventh in the eight-team Summit, is 6-9. The Leathernecks and Mavs have two common opponents — Drake beat Western in five sets before losing to UNO in three, while each team dropped a four-set match to Bradley.
As a team in its third year transitioning to Division I, UNO is ineligible for postseason play. So the other seven teams are fighting it out for the six spots in the league tournament.
“I think it’s anybody’s game any night,” Shires said. “To win the conference, each team needs to come to play every single night, and every match can impact and influence who finishes at the top.”