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Lions overcome upheaval

With new coach, reshuffled roster, Finlandia sweeps home debut

September 12, 2012
By Michael Bleach - DMG Sports Writer (mbleach@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - One week ago, the Finlandia volleyball program was without a coach, had only four returning players willing to stay on the roster and was on the brink of losing its season.

Tuesday, a group comprised of those four returnees, plus seven Lions softball players and recent Copper Country graduates who played volleyball in high school - basically an elite intramural team - took down Northland International 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-17).

It is just as tumultuous as it sounds.

Article Photos

Finlandia freshman middle hitter Emma Cole puts away a kill Tuesday as freshman setter Lucy Storm looks on. Cole and Storm are two recent additions to the team. (Michael Bleach/Daily Mining Gazette)

"We have a very unique situation," new coach Tim Minor said. "I just got here last Wednesday, and there were only four players choosing to return to the team to begin with."

Minor, an interim coach replacing the departed Mary Kaminski - who left recently over a "conflict of interest," according to FU softball coach Sean Hendrickson - was given a roster of eight women to take to Richmond, Ind. for the Quaker Classic over the weekend.

Athletic director Chris Salani was unavailable for comment by press time today.

Finlandia was swept in all four matches, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

"So we went down to this tournament with eight players and we went 0-4 down there," Minor said. "The competition was just way over our heads. But we scored in double digits in 70 percent of our games, and that was way more than I expected. I was actually really pleased."

"We need to have these programs run, so we figured we should help out," Hendrickson added. "You don't want to have this, but it is making the best out of a bad situation. We are working together to make sure they can do both. The kids will be awful busy, but as long as they can balance their schedules, it won't be a problem."

One 14-hour bus trip later, and Minor was basically posting proverbial want ads all over Finlandia's campus for anyone willing to play to fill out his roster.

"After the tournament I continued to just recruit locally and we got four more players from around the area," Minor said. "This is day five. We have kind of had one practice.

"But we have been most busy with the getting all the uniforms, with NCAA compliance requirements, trying to get all of that in plus a 14-hour trip back and forth to Richmond for the tournament."

So the lineup for Tuesday's game included freshman and recent Hancock graduate setter Lucy Storm, freshman middle hitter (and Finlandia basketball player) Emma Cole, senior Lake Linden-Hubbell product Lindsey Usitalo and a rotating complement of softball athletes - not all of whom even played volleyball in high school.

Storm did all the setting despite having less than 24 hours with the team.

"Lucy is a local product, from Hancock I believe. I'm from downstate so I'm not real sure where everything is yet," Minor said. "And she had one practice today for about 12 minutes. That was the first time she has been on the court for us."

Somehow, despite all of these complications, the Finlandia team not only won Tuesday, but looked strong doing so.

Cole and fellow middle hitter Augustine Brutus -one of the four returnees - dominated the middle Tuesday and Usitalo chipped in 10 kills from the outside.

"Emma Cole is here to play basketball," Minor said. "But she still made the all-tournament team in Richmond despite us going 0-4. So that tells you just how good she is."

"The softball girls are real athletic," Minor added. "So the way I am looking at it, there might be errors now but the talent is there. So we can keep building and building."

The softball players will have to balance fall ball - which includes 20 hours a week practicing - plus volleyball and academics. A busy schedule for any college attendee.

Hendrickson had no hesitation, however, in giving his team the green light to compete in both sports.

"I am hoping that (softball players) can help benefit somebody else because have had some success here," Hendrickson said. "And they have the mentality, that no matter what they are doing, they want to stay at that level. So even if it is just a little bit of rubbing off, it can help. We are going to do whatever we can do to help out."

Minor, is duly grateful.

"This is really unique. Most coaches would not say, 'Oh, hey. Take some of my players,'" Minor said. "They still have fall ball, they are practicing about 20 hours a week, so they really saved the day."

 
 

 

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