UC Volleyball Spring Wrap-Up|
May 9, 2011
By Shawn Sell
The saying goes "You can't judge a book by its cover," and that couldn't be truer when looking at the spring season recently completed by the UC Volleyball team. Coming off a record 30-win campaign, head coach Reed Sunahara used the spring to evaluate returning talent, but a clearer picture won't be painted until the 2011 season draws nearer.
While the wins and losses weren't what he hoped (final spring record of 3-3), Sunahara, about to start his 12th season at the helm of the Bearcat program, wasn't too concerned with final results from the spring campaign. Instead, it was about player development.
"Spring is always a time where you can figure out what you have coming back and give the younger players and some of the players that get a lot of playing time a chance, " he says. "You always want to win, but I wasn't too concerned about wins and losses. I was concerned about development of our players."
Developing young players will be critical for a Bearcat team that must replace All-American Stephanie Niemer, arguably the best UC volleyball player ever, and multiple-time All-BIG EAST performer Annie Fesl. UC started the transition process without the stars this spring, but injuries limited that development. Juniors-to-be Emily Hayden and Megan Turner both missed all of the spring, while rising senior Missy Harpenau's participation was limited. That left UC's line-up a shell of what it should be come fall.
"It's hard when you have three kids out that will make an impact in the fall," Sunahara admits. "It's frustrating, but at the same time it's good for the other kids to get more reps."
Among the other players that took advantage of the thin line-up was sophomore-to-be Juliana Behrens, an outside hitter that, along with Harpenau will have big shoes to fill in trying to replace Niemer's productivity. A newcomer into the fold, Rachel Rohlfs, a transfer from Grand Valley State, also joined the fray after transferring prior to winter quarter. She, along with incoming freshman Caylin Mahoney, will battle it out for the setter slot vacated by Fesl.
While the offensive aspect of the Bearcats' game was affected by injury, Sunahara was particularly pleased with the effort turned in defensively by soon-to-be sophomore Emily MacIntyre and junior Karen Onuki. According to Sunahara, both had strong springs and will be vital to UC's continued success in the fall.
"I thought our defense was good and got better throughout," he says. "Mac and Karen did a good job and hopefully those two can lead our defense and we will be better that way."
Another bonus to the spring was the arrival of new assistant coach Samantha Dabbs. No stranger to the BIG EAST after playing two years at Louisville, Dabbs was able to get her feet wet with her new squad this spring.
"Sam is here now and working with our players," Sunahara says. "Anytime you hire a new assistant, it's a transition. We were comfortable for four years with Erin and Myanna and luckily Myanna is still here. Sam is in and I think she will make a good impression on our program."
The Bearcats will welcome back eight letterwinners from last season's 30-6 squad that won a share of the BIG EAST Regular Season Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. UC will open the 2011 season with its annual Alumni Match on Saturday, August 20th.