Women's Volleyball |
Aug. 21, 2007
This is part one of a three-part series previewing the Bearcats' volleyball team. In part one, you will hear head coach Reed Sunahara's thoughts on the 2007 season and meet the team's group of outside hitters.
New Obstacles Face Bearcats In 2007 Season
Each season, the University of Cincinnati volleyball program is faced with a new set of challenges in its quest to win 20 matches, compete for a conference championship and qualify for NCAA Tournament play. Each season, eight-year head coach Reed Sunahara and his charges have met the challenges head on and found great success along the way.
In just its second season as BIG EAST members last year, UC was in the mix for a conference crown once again, while stretching its streak of 20-win seasons to 12 straight. To do that again in 2007, the Bearcats will count on a strong core of veterans and another crop of talented newcomers. UC should be especially strong defensively and should maintain its steady offense from a year ago.
"I don't think there is any question that the pieces are in place for us to have the kind of season that will allow us to reach our goals," Sunahara says. "As always, we will need good leadership from our older players and contributions from our freshmen. If this team can gel early on, I think we will have another good year."
The core of the team is stocked with players who have made significant contributions and improvements since the start of their careers. Now a junior, two-time All-American Jessie Nevitt has been a force at middle blocker for the past two seasons. Seniors Jenny Custer and Erin Maldo, along with redshirt junior Natalie Dossman know what it takes to win and will be counted on to lead the pack.
The obstacles facing the Bearcats in 2007 come as a result of graduation losses at middle blocker and setter. For the first time in recent memory, the Bearcats will start the year without an experienced setter on the roster, but don't figure to miss a beat with talented freshman Annie Fesl ready to take the controls. The squad will also have to fill Myanna Hellsten's hole in the middle.
The schedule will be another daunting one for the Bearcats, with the highlight coming early with a visit from 2006 national runner-up Stanford. The always competitive BIG EAST docket will pose a challenge with three of the final four weekends of league play taking place on the road, including journeys to perennial league powers Louisville and Notre Dame.
The cupboard is well stocked on the outside for the Bearcats, leaving Sunahara with a variety of options. The roster shows four outside hitters with ample collegiate experience, being joined by one talented freshman.
Senior Jenny Custer has been a mainstay during her career and figures to be get the nod on the right-side again in 2007. Custer has gotten better each year at UC and averaged 3.02 kills per game, along with career-highs in digs (2.43) and blocks (1.00) per game last year.
Jessica Elley was one of the biggest success stories of 2006 for the Bearcats as she led the team in kills (3.54 per game) and ranked second in digs (3.37 per game). Now a junior, Elley should be ready for an even bigger performance this fall with another year of experience.
Senior Erin Maldo and junior Lindsey Peterson have both drawn lots of playing time throughout their careers and will figure in the equation again this year. Injuries held Maldo to limited appearances last season and all as a defensive specialist. Peterson has shown potential and improvement while at UC, but will need to play more consistently to increase her playing time.
Freshman Stephanie Niemer will push all of the incumbents for playing time and has the talent to be an exceptional player. A decorated competitor on the prep level, Niemer is extremely athletic by virtue of her accomplishments as a basketball player as well.
Sophomore Katey Schroeder is the heir apparent on the right side to Custer, but she may miss the season after a spring injury. Freshman Lindsay Upton can play on the outside as well.