Blocker duo pair well for volleyball

By Mike Romor

It didn’t take long for middle blockers Sarah Angelos and Jenna Radtke to mesh this season, and it’s been beneficial for all of volleyball.

Angelos, a senior, entered this season with an unfamiliar mentoring role. After All-MAC middle blocker Mary Kurisch graduated last season, Angelos knew she not only had to take on the title of mentor this year, she had to trust freshman Radtke to take on a large role.

“With Mary, we kind of learned everything at the same time,” Angelos said. “Now I’m able to show Jenna what [head coach] Ray [Gooden] wants us to do and what the team expects out of us. She’s done a really good job of picking up on things quickly.”

Radtke felt intimidated early in the season because she had to work alongside Angelos in practice and gain the trust of veterans like Mackenzie Roddy, Emily Paschke and Lauren Zielinski.

Her nerves settled fast, as the team embraced Radtke and was willing to work with her to develop a bond on the court.

“In the beginning, the seniors brought [in the freshmen] to teach us what our role is on the team,” Radtke said. “As the season went on, we know what classes are which, but we blend together as one unit.”

Radtke earned Angelos’ trust rather easily. Her dedication and physical play were just a few of the factors that led to her insertion in the starting rotation.

The freshman blocker’s communication with teammates helped earn her enough trust to be an essential part of the team and get off to a solid start to her collegiate career.

Through trust and communication on and off the court, Angelos and Radkte have paired up to be one of the better blocking duos in the MAC. Angelos ranks ninth in kills per set and hitting percentage, and Radkte sits at seventh in blocks per set and is hitting .276.

While Radtke has shined at times, she has struggled in the area most freshmen do: staying consistent.

“The difference between us is where you can tell the senior-freshman gap,” Radtke said. “My consistency still needs to improve. Watching [Angelos] with her confidence, that plays a role in her consistency. Her confidence leads to her consistency and I’m still trying to work on that.”

Angelos has done her best to point Radtke toward becoming a more consistent player.

“In practices, for example, if she’s ever getting really tight to the net, or things that I always have to remind myself about, I try to help her and tell her,” Angelos said. “She doesn’t have the three years of experience that I have to be able to tell herself to stay off the net.”

Angelos said Radtke “demanded a spot to play and deserves it” because of her natural ability and physicality. Gooden echoed that sentiment and was not concerned with plugging the freshman into the spot previously held by one of the better blockers Gooden has had. Gooden believes the physical balance Radtke brings helps with how talented Angelos is offensively.

“Jenna has a chance to be a real good blocker, and she’s really physical, and Sarah is very fast and very athletic,” Gooden said. “I think they complement each other. They’re not the same in any particular regard…. They each have their own particular things, but they’re both extremely talented.”