Michelle Sicner is way too old for a security blanket.
That feeling of comfort, though, is how the 6-foot-2 Creighton junior has been describing her return to setter for the No. 19 Bluejay volleyball team.
“It was really nice to get back into the position I’m used to,” Sicner said. “Setting has been a position I’ve always played. It’s something so familiar to me.”
A setter at Millard North, she’s spent most of the last two years waiting for All-American Megan Bober to graduate. She played some at the position when CU ran a 6-2 offense her freshman year, but otherwise she’s filled in — and excelled — as a defensive specialist or rightside hitter.
Last week, it was finally time for her to take over the role as team quarterback.
She was an immediate success.
Sicner was named the most valuable player of the Hampton Inn Invitational after averaging 11.6 assists, 3.4 digs, 1.7 kills and 0.9 blocks per set in wins over then-No. 13 BYU and Bowling Green.
She had 43 assists, 16 digs, eight kills and four blocks on .438 hitting against BYU, the highest ranked team CU has ever beat, to help her earn Big East player of the week honors.
The performance was no surprise to CU coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth, who often had said Sicner was the second best setter in the Missouri Valley even though she wasn’t playing the position.
“I think to people on the outside, Michelle was an unknown entity,” Booth said. “We’ve known for two years she was outstanding.”
Sicner played like a veteran and distributed the ball well last weekend, Booth said. Her challenge in three games this weekend in the Bluejay Invitational and the rest of the season will be to find the hot hand on a team overflowing with heavy hitters.
Knowing she has so many go-to players eased Sicner’s nerves before last weekend. At least until just after the pregame introductions on Friday. Then it hit her.
“This is my first attempt at a college setting career,” she remembers thinking. “It took me through the whole first game of the match to get through it. Once I got to the second game, I was more comfortable.”
Those two years she didn’t play setter may be an asset, Sicner said. It opened her eyes to what is happening at other positions.
There’s some new faces in those spots, but still the same goofiness. The Bluejays always find something to laugh about in every game, Sicner said.
That strong team chemistry on and off the court eases the pressure of having to live up to last year’s 29-4 performance.
They’re a different team with new goals. Sicner wants to win the tournament this weekend for the first time.
The Bluejays play Northern Colorado at 6 p.m. Friday, South Florida at noon Saturday and California at 7:30 Saturday at D.J. Sokol Arena.
Although none of them are ranked, all three opponents will be a challenge. Booth said anyone in the top 50 is a great team that can beat you at any time.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed with them on tape. We’re going to be ready to go.”
Booth was happy to see the Jays move up in the polls and, even though she liked what she saw last weekend, she said there’s still lots of work to be done.
Sicner said to accomplish her goals this weekend, the Jays need to keep playing as a team and at a high intensity.
“We need to put all the little pieces together we were missing from last week,” she said, “and come out and play hard to win.”