By Seth J. Walker
The Oakland Golden Grizzlies enter this season not too much differently from recent years; as a deep team that’s expected to contend for the Horizon League Championship. That’s been the case since the Golden Grizzlies won the Horiozn League regular season and tournament championships four years ago. Now, there’s only one member left from that squad, who redshirted that year, middle hitter, Krysteena Davis.
Now a redshirt senior, Davis is one of the leaders for Golden Grizzlies who will look to book end her collegiate career with another Horizon League championship ring. The Golden Grizzlies are known for giving other teams fits with their blocking, and Davis was a huge reason for that, with a team-high 143 blocks, which actually ranks second, to her single-season record 161 the year before, in program history.
“Davis is our leader in this regard and she finished 20th among all NCAA players in 2017,” Oakland head coach Rob Beam said.
Offensively, Beam will count on the “impressive” connection between setter, Jordan Lentz and outside hitter, Jamie Walling. Lentz, a redshirt junior, has the third and fourth highest single season assists totals in program history over the last two ranks and ranks fifth all-time in career assists. Walling made an immediate impact last year as a Horizon League All-Freshman selection; and is the top returner this year in kills with 246.
With the departure of last year’s Horizon League Player of the Year, Darien Bandel, Walling has the opportunity to potentially become an even greater offensive force. This also provides potential opportunities for other outside hitters, senior Aleksandra Malek, junior Courtney Wightman, and freshman Abby Neidinger.
Beam is known for scheduling tough non-conference opponents, with this year being no different. The Golden Grizzlies host Colorado State and LSU and go on the road to face Michigan, Purdue, Bowling Green, and Notre Dame. These matchups along with others combine to make, according to Beam, “the toughest schedule we have had in my 12 seasons at Oakland.”
The main goal however, will be to reclaim the Horiozn League crown from three-time defending champion Cleveland State, but knows it won’t be easy with other teams like Green Bay and Milwaukee in the hunt.
“We compete every season for a league championship and this year will be no different,” Beam said. “I believe the Horizon League is going to be wide open and hard to predict.”