The expectations are high at Western Michigan, and it all starts with Valparaiso product Rachel Bontrager.
“We only graduated one senior and with Rachel leading the way we’re extremely excited,” Western Michigan coach Colleen Munson said. “It’s hard to believe Rachel is going into her junior season; she has been tremendous two years in our program and is a respected leader on and off the court.”
Bontrager was First-Team All-Mid-American Conference pick as a sophomore while also garnering All-Freshman team honors in 2017. She led the Broncos with 435 total kills, while also ranking 27th nationally. In addition, Bontrager was 15th in total points (497.5) and 13th in total attacks (1,309) among national leaders. Her 1,309 attacks rank sixth most in a single-season in school history.
Bontrager had 13 double-doubles and double-digit kills in 27 of 31 matches last season for the Broncos (16-14).
“Rachel is selfless in that she is willing to play whatever position the team needs,” Munson said. “The last two seasons she has been on the outside and this past spring she spent some time on the right side.”
Bontrager takes care of business off the court as well. She earned Distinguished Scholar Athlete honors after posting a 3.91 grade-point average in pre-speech path/audiology.
In other volleyball news, Michigan State’s Alyssa Chronowski (Munster) is coming off a sophomore season where she earned the team’s Playmaker Award. Chronowski was first on the team in kills (365) and points per set (3.68). She was the only Spartan to appear in all 121 sets all season, leading the team in 3.02 kills per set, while ranking 15th in the Big Ten in kills per set.
• Ball State returns senior Sydnee VanBeek (Illiana Christian), a first-team All-MAC selection last season. VanBeek averaged 1.03 blocks per set. Overall, the Cardinals (22-10) return eight letterwinners, including Kia Holder (Morgan Twp.) and Reece Kral (Crown Point).
• Duquesne’s Dani Suiter (Valparaiso) is back as one of the Atlantic 10’s top setters. The senior was named All-Conference Second Team last year. Suiter averaged 9.85 assists per set, which was second in the league. She had 10 matches with 40-plus assists, including 60 assists against George Washington.
• USC’s Madison Horin (Munster), rated the No. 7 Senior Ace by PrepVolleyball.com, is expected to do big things for the Women of Troy, who are picked to finish second by league coaches in the Pac-12. Horin, a freshman, is an Under Armour High School All-American and helped the No. 1-ranked USAV Junior National Team win gold at the 2018 NORCECA qualifier.