THE PENNANT PLAYER PROFILE
By RICK PETERSON
Things are about to get real for senior Faith Rottinghaus and her Washburn University volleyball teammates and the former Shawnee Heights multi-sport standout couldn't be more excited.
The powerhouse Ichabods, who open the 2021 season at home Thursday against Cameron University, had the entire '20 season wiped out by COVID-19 and Rottinghaus admitted that it's been a tough stretch for everybody in the program.
"It was extremely weird and it was really hard on us all, just kind of mentally taxing,'' said the two-time All-MIAA first-team libero/defensive specialist. "We were continuing to go into the gym and looking forward to getting to play but yet we didn't know if we were going to play or when we were going to play.
"It was a little bit mentally challenging from that aspect of it and to stay in good physical shape was kind of challenging. We really relied on each other and support from our teammates and coaches and motivation from each other.''
Washburn got what amounted to a dress rehearsal this past spring with an abbreviated schedule, but now it appears as if the Ichabods are going to get the chance to play their full '21 schedule, which Rottinghaus said is welcome news.
"(Spring) was definitely more like a scrimmage season to really get to know how our team was going to work, but at the same time we knew nothing really counted and that we were going to have five or six new people come in this fall which would change our team a lot,'' she said.
"It was great to play other people because in the fall we got to play nobody, so that was very rewarding, but the main thing is it told us a lot about what we had to work on and what we can still improve on this fall.''
Washburn will get things cranked up in a hurry this week, beginning with Thursday's (6 p.m.) Cameron match.
The Ichbods will also be in action Friday and Saturday, playing four matches in the Washburn Invitational.
Rottinghaus, who helped Shawnee Heights win Class 5A state volleyball and softball championships her senior year, said she's more thrilled than ever to be back on the floor.
"Taking two years off basically, it makes ever practice, every little thing that we've done so much more worth it now that we actually have a schedule and get to look forward to playing and kind of getting everything back to normal,'' said Rottinghaus, who led the 27-4 Ichabods with 594 digs in '19.
"It's really exciting and we're all just looking forward to having a great season and really pushing each other with the end goal of winning the conference, regionals and the national championship. We've just got to keep working.''
Rottinhaus, named Washburn's most valuable player as a freshman in 2017, said it's very important to all of the Ichabods' talented senior class to end their careers with a bang.
"We just want to give it our all,'' said Rottinghaus, a two-time Academic All-American. "This senior class has been through so much, coming in as freshman and starting five freshmen and not being very successful compared to the past and then the next year getting into the Final Four and the next year getting into the NCAA Tournament.
"We have a lot of expectations for ourselves but they're good expecations in the respect that they're going to push us to become the best players and teammates that we can be.''