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Monday, October 10, 2016

Setting the Table

Autumn Risch is the latest in a long line of outstanding
setters from Minnesota State
Legacy.  A word that maybe gets tossed around in the sports world so much that sometimes it loses some of its meaning. 

However, in a situation where there is a direct line between the current setter with the Minnesota State women's program and the six ones that held the position dating back to the early 1990's, it's difficult to dismiss the correlation.

Take a look.  Heidi Schnagl racked up 3,963 assists for the Mavericks from 1991-94. Nichole Roethig had 3,804 assists from 1995-98. Jen Blendermann totaled 4,367 assists from 1999-2002. Steph Sandstrom finished with 3,417 assists from 2004-2007. Brittany Stamer established the school record with 4,718 assists in her four seasons with the program from 2008-2011 and Ellie Van De Steeg followed with 3,578 assists from 2012-15. An almost unbroken string of multiple-year all-conference, and in some cases, Minnesota State Hall of Fame setters (as Schnagl and Blendermann are).

While the first four setters on the list played for former coaches Marge Burkett and Doug Tully, Stamer and Van De Steeg played for Dennis Amundson, who coached the Mavericks from 2005-14. 

Current head coach Lori Rittenhouse-Wollmuth credits Amundson, who had a 181-111 won-loss record in his nine seasons with Minnesota State, for the recent spate of outstanding table setters. “Setting was his passion," said Rittenhouse-Wollmouth. "It’s what he really studied and what he really enjoyed coaching so he was able to establish his style of coaching that works. It definitely works in our league so it’s just been really great to have a setter established so when the newbie comes in we don’t skip a beat. Not many programs can have this many setters who have that level of success.”

Autumn Risch gained some unexpected experience last year due to an injury to Van De Steeg and in her first career start, helped engineer an upset over seventh-rated Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 23rd. The Howard Groves, Wis., native is settling into the responsibility of being the starting setter in her second season with the Mavericks this year.

“It’s been great having Autumn as a starter," said Rittenhouse-Wollmouth. "She very savvy and she’s a real student of the game. She comes from a coach’s family. which I think always helps. She has a real calm intensity out there that has allowed our hitters to gain some confidence and just keep a steady vibe."

“It’s been going pretty well," said Risch, who is averaging 10.4 assists per set and is closing in on 700 assists through the team's first 17 matches. Her 10.29 assists in league play ranks eighth in the conference - a league in which seven teams are rated in the NCAA Division II top 20 poll. "I’m enjoying it a lot and, naturally, it’s a lot different than last year. My goal as a freshman was always to push Ellie in practice and now my goal is to push myself and challenge myself. My goal every day is to lead the team in the right direction toward our goals.” 

Risch gives much of the credit to her success to Van De Steeg.

“I got to work with Ellie a lot, which was a really great experience. She had a lot of knowledge to share and really made it easy for me to transition from high-school to college just because she helped me out so much allowing me to learn the game better through her,” she said.

                                                          contributed by Collin Wilmes, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern

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