Off-season workouts can be tough, cruel, and demanding.
For the University of Findlay volleyball team, those workouts often begin at 6 a.m. They often involve conditioning drills, lifting, and countless reps. And the payoff? That won't come until the fall, when the new season begins.
But don't tell that to Maggie Naayers.
"I like spring a lot," said Naayers, a Springfield native who will be a senior for the Oilers this fall. "There also are a lot of scrimmages, a lot of chances to play, especially for players who don't get to play a lot."
Naayers, a St. Ursula graduate who starts at right-side hitter for Findlay, saw plenty of time on the court last fall. She finished fourth on the team in kills with 127 in 27 matches, and she ranked third on the team in blocks with 45.
"Maggie did a nice job for us on the right side," said Oilers coach Wick Colchagoff. "In several of our wins she sparked us with a key block or kill.
"Plus, she's a character. She keeps us loose, because she's a player you can laugh with. She is great for our team's chemistry."
Last season Findlay finished with a 15-12 overall record and a 9-10 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. But the Oilers won 10 of their last 11 matches, and Naayers said that fine finish has helped motivate this team in the spring.
"We ended the season really strong, and that winning streak helped us end on a positive note," she said. "It helps that we're super-motivated this season. We were really young last season, and we feel this is our year."
Naayers has a 3.9 grade-point average while majoring in accounting with a minor in criminal justice. She was awarded the team's scholar-athlete award for the highest GPA among the upperclassmen -- no mean feat on a squad with a 3.56 GPA. Her GPA is more impressive when you consider she is in the honors program at Findlay.
"I love being at Findlay, because it's been a positive place for my career," she said. "It's a small school, so I can text or call teachers, and they are always willing to help.
"I think that's one of the reasons I have such a great GPA."
Naayers also credits Colchagoff, a Rogers High School grad, for providing motivation to her and her teammates on the court as well.
"Every year coach makes sure we have a special trip, a special experience," she said. "Last year we went to California, and this year we're going to Alaska. Those are places I would have never gone on my own, and those are going to be great experiences."
Colchagoff said Naayers is making spring workouts a special experience for her teammates.
"This spring season Maggie has provided great leadership," he said. "It's tough when you have to get up early in the morning to work out, but the feedback that I've gotten from the team is that this has been one of the best springs we've had in years.
"And that's a credit to Maggie and the seniors on this team."
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.