Women's Volleyball |
Bearcat Volleyball Sets Sights On New Challenges, Same Results
Contact: Jeremy Hartigan
The mission for the Cincinnati volleyball program has been to compete with the top teams in the country.
A pair of Conference USA American Division crowns and consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, including its first ever at-large bid in 2000, highlighted its run. Last year UC finished among the Top 35 teams in the country, according to the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
Mission accomplished. Now itís time for a new challenge ...
The new goal is simple ... be recognized as one of the elite programs in the country.
With four returning starters, nine letterwinners dotting the roster and an incoming class of recruits which rival any at UC in terms of talent, the next challenge begins when the curtain rises on the 2001 season.
Unlike last year when former role players and newcomers were expected to increase their contributions to fill in for what was lost, the Bearcats return experienced and proven players at every position. Three first team all-conference performers, the leagueís defensive player and freshman of the year return as UC strives for a school-record seventh consecutive 20-win campaign.
The mission for Reed Sunaharaís Bearcats is to capitalize on the opportunities the 2001 schedule features. In the first four weeks of the season, Cincinnati will face three of last yearís Final Four teams, including national runner-up Wisconsin, and five squads expected to be in the preseason Top 20.
Ladusaw Leads Outside Hitters
The teamís leading attacker from the outside has graduated each of the last two years, and each season she has been replaced by a reserve who had bid her time on the bench. With the graduation of Shauntel Miller, a second team all-league pick and the teamís leader in kills, UC must again replace its top threat from the outside. This time a wealth of experienced talent awaits to take her swings.
Junior Trish Ladusaw has been best known for her defense during her first two years, twice breaking the single-season school record for digs and earning the conferenceís inaugural Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. She led C-USA and ranked fourth in the country in digs last year (4.71 per game) and became the first sophomore in school history to reach 1,000 career digs. The two-time league player of the week was also a steady option in the blocking schemes, ranking fifth on the team. But it was her marked improvement on offense that has the coaches excited.
Ladusaw ranked second on the team in kills and improved her hitting percentage nearly 20 points from her freshman season. A proven winner and competitor, the Louisville, Ky. nativeís squads have gone 201-25 over the last six years.
Sophomore Ashley Grooms and freshmen Shaun McAllister and Becky Stahl will compete for the starting spot opposite Ladusaw.
Grooms saw action in every game a year ago, seeing most of her floor time as a back row specialist. An athletic hitter with superior ball control skills, the Fresno, Calif., native spent the offseason working on her hitting technique in order to generate a more powerful attack. She will also be a key in the service game, having developed a devastating jump serve which helped her finish third on the team in aces in 2000.
McAllister may be the most athletic outside hitter ever recruited to Cincinnati, possessing an approach jump of 40 inches while generating tremendous power on her attacks.
Stahl is the most likely candidate to move into the starting rotation as a freshman. A polished player with the all-around skills to contribute immediately, Stahl could pick up a majority of Millerís lost swings. The Austin, Texas, native led central Texas high schools in kills with more than 600 as a senior and earned district most valuable hitter honors her final two years.
Lauder Returns To Run Offense
With the return of a potent offensive lineup, sophomore setter Laura Lauder will have plenty of options to choose from. If her first season is any indication, more often than not the ball will be delivered to the right player.
Lauder earned C-USA Co-Freshman of the Year honors after an outstanding rookie campaign. The Louisville, Ky., native ranked fourth in the league with 1,563 assists and second on the squad with 24 service aces, helping the Bearcats to a second consecutive American Division crown.
The athletic 5-8 setter is a quick decision maker who recognizes the hot hitter and adapts well to the flow of a match. A true competitor, Lauder has the leadership ability and work ethic to continue her success.
While Lauderís first season showed great promise, she also understood her weaknesses, spending the summer concentrating on her defense and blocking after recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Senior Sherry Niekamp and freshman Ashlee Strete will serve as the backups. Niekamp is an accomplished blocker, who at 6-1, brings a different dimension to UCís attack. Strete is a first-year walk-on who may also earn time as a defensive specialist.
Talented Middles Spur Offense, Defense
The middle will again be a strength despite the loss of two-time all-conference pick Stephanie Meinig. Now patrolling the sidelines as an assistant coach, Meinig has tremendous talent to work with, including senior Tobi Kirchenwitz, junior Bonita Wise and sophomore Leslie Newell.
Kirchenwitz has the all-around skills necessary to move into the starting lineup full-time. Besides being an accomplished blocker and an improving offensive threat, the senior has the back row and service skills that set her apart from other middle blockers.
Despite seeing a majority of her action in the back row in 2000, the Janesville, Wis., native was impressive in her limited time in the middle. The 6-1 Kirchenwitz recorded the programís second triple-double with 15 kills, 10 digs and 10 blocks against Dayton in the championship game of the Flyer Invitational.
Two-time all-conference selection Bonita Wise may be the most important piece of the puzzle for UCís success in 2001. The junior is a multi-talented athlete who can play with power or finesse.
Wise is a go-to type player who can run nearly any route and hit any shot in the offense. A strong blocker, she has the quickness to dominate defensively. She also possesses the ball control skills to serve as a primary passer.
Newell came into her own late in her freshman season, becoming more consistent with her powerful attack to become a reliable weapon on offense. Possessing the height, lateral quickness and leaping ability to dominate at the net, Newell will help form one of the top trio of middle blockers in the district.
Freshmen Julie DuPont and Rachel Torblaa look to break into the rotation as part of a talented recruiting class. DuPont is more equipped to contribute right away and is an accomplished offensive weapon. Torblaa, at 6-2, is the tallest player on the roster and has outstanding potential, particularly in controlling play at the net.
Leagueís Top Defensive Specialist Returns
With the new best-of-five game rally scoring change putting an emphasis on passing, defense and the service game, solid back row play will be at a premium. In senior Rachel Beran, the Bearcats possess the top defensive specialist in C-USA.
A terrific athlete, Beran is fully recovered from knee problems which limited her last year. She still showed enough to earn first team all-conference honors as a defender, finishing second on the squad in digs and third in service aces. One of the toughest players on the roster, Beran has the mentality and credentials to take over more of a leadership role this season.
Senior Alison Waske and junior Katie Siegel also have the potential to contribute in the back row.
Waske walked on the team this past spring and impressed the coaching staff with her hustle and attitude. Siegel is one of the teamís top servers and has tremendous defensive instincts. A converted hitter, the Cincinnati native has fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined her in 2000.
The 2001 Schedule
Cincinnatiís schedule should easily rank among the most challenging in the country. The Bearcatsí non-conference opponents posted a .676 winning percentage, while C-USA teams which average four returning starters will attempt to keep UC from winning its third consecutive American Division crown.
Contests against three of last yearís final four teams dot the schedule, part of 11 matches Cincinnati will play against teams that earned bids to the NCAA Tournament last season. Seventeen matches against regionally-ranked opponents also make up UCís schedule.
Of its 14 non-league matches, 10 will pit UC against regionally-ranked squads, seven are against NCAA teams and five opponents were nationally ranked in 2000.
Highlighting The 2001 Schedule . . .The Bearcats open the 2001 season by participating in the Golden Gate Classic hosted by the University of San Francisco. UC will meet Wyoming (10-22) in the first round and either the host school (12-15) or Furman (18-17) on the final day.
Highlighting the non-conference schedule is the Aston Imua Challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii. Cincinnati will face Final Four squads USC (29-3) and the host Rainbows (31-2), as well as a Top 25 squad from Utah State (22-10).
The Bearcats open the home schedule by hosting nationally-ranked Ohio State (26-7), marking the Buckeyesí first trip to the Shoemaker Center since 1992.
UC meets national runner-up Wisconsin (33-4) and NCAA qualifier Duke (21-13) at the University of Wisconsin tournament.
In all, Cincinnati will have faced opponents with a combined 162-39 record over 10 days while traveling from Hawaii to Cincinnati to Madison, Wis.
Western Kentucky (25-8), Wright State (11-17) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (23-5) will return trips to the Shoemaker Center after Cincinnati played each on the road in 2000.
UC ends its regular season at the Atlantic 10-Conference USA Challenge in Louisville, Ky., where it will square off with Dayton (18-11) and Xavier (23-8).
Cincinnati will attempt to capture its third straight American Division title against a league schedule that includes NCAA qualifiers Houston, Louisville and South Florida.
First-time meetings with new league members East Carolina and TCU also highlight league play.