By Seth J. Walker
The Madonna Crusaders enter the 2018 season looking to make a seventh straight NAIA Tournament appearance. The Crusaders will have to do it without three NAIA All-Americans, Karlie Kelly, Amanda Hawkins, and Nicole Oestrike. However, they have a very deep team, which was picked second in the WHAC preseason poll after winning the conference regular season title last year.
Sophomore setter, Alyssa Facione played a large role last year as a freshman and is expected to once again be a key part of the Crusader defense. Fellow sophomore, outside hitter, Jodie Kelly will look to continue the family legacy established by older sister, Karlie, now a graduate assistant on staff. Senior setter, Lauren Korth, a Romeo, Michigan native, like the Kelly sisters, will once again quarterback the offensive attack. Junior Erica LaBaere, a transfer from St. Claire Community College, will also join Madonna’s Romeo connection this season.
A highlight of this year’s schedule is the Julie Martin Memorial Classic with the Crusaders hosting Rochester College, Bellevue, Olivet Nazarene, and Windsor. The tournament is in honor of the former Crusader standout who passed away from cancer in 2000.
“We’ve got some good competition coming in and it’s always great to honor Julie and all she meant to this program,” Madonna head coach Jerry Abraham said.
After that tournament will be the heart of their schedule, conference play, where the Crusaders will have a familiar mission.
“Our goals are the same every year – we want to win the conference and get to the national tournament,” Abraham said. “We’ve been each of the past six seasons and our program record is seven, it’d be great to match that.”