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Senior Bys at the heart of Drake’s rise to contention

Years from now, when Angela Bys returns to the Drake University Knapp Center to watch a volleyball match, she will remember her 2010 season. It was a season where the Bulldogs won their first 14 matches, a season where team chemistry was blooming, and a season where she emerged as a team leader.

As a senior outside hitter for the Bulldogs, Bys is coming off a 2009 season in which she started in 33 of 34 matches, led the team in kills and moved into second place on the Drake all-time kills list. Along with Bys’ success last season, the Bulldogs made it to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time since 1998, and the team is looking to get back to the tournament in consecutive seasons.

“Our goal as a team is to obviously make it to the MVC tournament,” Bys said. “And to finish as high as we can, knowing that we left everything on the court.”

With many returning upperclassmen, this team may be in a better position than past teams to compete at the tournament.

“I think the biggest thing is experience,” Head Coach Phil McDaniel said. “We’ve got six seniors on the team, along with five juniors. It’s that senior leadership that knows that last year we made it to the conference tournament, and now we’re ready to take that next step forward.”

At the heart of that senior leadership is Bys.

“[Angela] is a strong asset to our team,” junior Michelle Reidy said. “She brings a positive attitude and encouragement, as well as a profound knowledge of the game.”

Along with the experience to make a run at the MVC title, this year’s team also possesses confidence.

“My first couple years at Drake, it seemed like we were always just trying to stay in a match,” Bys said. “This year we go into those matches with an attitude of confidence, expecting to succeed.”

The confidence of this year’s team has shown through on the court, with the team losing for the first time this season in its 15th match.

Bys said the key to the team’s success this year has been its chemistry on the court.

“Knowing our teammates well makes it easier to rely on and trust each other,” she said.

Not only do the girls on the team make it easy for each other to be close teammates, but they also make it easy for McDaniel to coach them.

“The players are easy to work with because they work so hard,” McDaniel said. “This is my first head coaching job, and it was a great situation to walk into. I hope to be here for a long time.”

Unfortunately, Bys will not be around any longer than this year. However, she plans to work in the Des Moines area after graduating, and will be able to come to Drake volleyball games in the future. Heading into the second half of her final season, she appreciates the time spent on the team for the past four years.

“It is such an honor,” Bys said. “Not everyone is given the same opportunity, and sometimes I think it can be taken for granted.”

Bys would like to go out with the team on a high note by performing well in the MVC tournament. For any team who happens to face this Bulldog team in the tournament, it isn’t going to be an easy victory.

“We are going to give 100 percent effort and come out expecting a battle for every point,” Bys said.

Years from now, when Bys returns to the Knapp Center, she might be sitting underneath a 2010 Missouri Valley Conference championship banner–if the rest of the season goes according to plan.

2010 Season stats

298 kills (first on team)

4.03 kills per set (first)

16 service aces (T-first)

190 digs (second)

2.57 digs per set (first)

11 solo blocks (T-first)

Photo: File photo


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