August 21 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Coming off back-to-back 30-win seasons and their third straight ECAC South title, the Bethany College volleyball program and seventh year head coach Courtney Kline will look to capture the Presidents’ Athletic Conference title that has eluded them this season.
“The past three seasons have been great for us as a program,” said Coach Kline, “but now that we have put together a winning program, it’s time for us to take that next step and capture a PAC crown and make the NCAA playoffs, regardless of how young we are.”
The youth Coach Kline is referring to is the fact that this year’s Bison squad will feature no seniors, just nine returners and 15 newcomers.
“Even though we have a young team, I believe that the winning mentality is there,” remarked Kline. “I don’t expect to see any drop off from the last few years. Despite the departure of a few key players, we feel that this could be one of the deepest and most talented teams we have ever had.”
Offensively, Coach Kline says that fans can expect to see something a little different.
“We are going to play faster this season,” said Kline. “Typically we have been more of a power hitting program. However, this year on the offensive side we are going to be quicker and play as fast as we possibly can.
“On the flip side, we intend to set up our offensive attack with our defense, where we have returned all of our main contributors from last season. We will be very energetic on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense.”
The team will have a new look on the outsides as they said goodbye to both Taylor Cassidy on the outside, and Lauren Goodwill on the right side. The two combined for 860 kills last season and added 148 blocks. However, Coach Kline is confident she has the pieces in place to continue the success that the team saw on the outside last season.
“It’s never easy losing the kind of talent that we lost, but we are ready to push forward with a few key players that we have back this year,” remarked Kline of her offense.
One of those players is Jordan Fenner (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville North). As a sophomore last season, Fenner appeared in all 39 matches and totaled 234 kills while hitting .167 on the season. She eclipsed the 10-kill mark six times during the season while platooning with Cassidy, Goodwill and fellow returner Lynsie Mandt (Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne).
“Jordan was our strong side hitter last year and she really stepped into the role nicely,” claimed Kline of her junior outside. “She has areas where she can improve, but we expect her to do big things this year as she gets more chances to attack.”
Mandt is another returner on the outside who Coach Kline believes will contribute greatly on the outside.
“Lynsie has been a role player for us in the past and would always do anything I asked of her,” said Coach Kline. “She has a consistency about her that is hard to find at the Division III level, and we expect good things from her in her expanded role.”
“Overall on the outside, we just want to be faster,” said Kline of her offensive game plan. “We want to take the game up a notch and really come at teams hard from the outside, and we believe we can do that.”
The middle of the Bison offense and defense might prove to be the strongest it has ever been with the return of PAC Honorable Mention selection Breana Harris (Severn, Md./Old Mill) and junior Megan Beebe (Irondale, Ohio/Indian Creek), who led the team in blocks, averaging 1.04 per set.
The two combined for 253 blocks last season, and were the main reason that the Bison led all teams in the PAC in total blocks with 407 and blocks per set (2.33).
“Breana is such a talented and athletic player,” responded Kline when asked about her two-year starter. “She is not only strong on the defensive side, but she has become strong on the offensive side as well. I could see her being the go to player in big situations for us this season.
“We also expect big things from Megan this season. We need her to continue to be a pillar on the defensive side of the ball, and if she becomes more of a weapon offensively, we will be tough to stop.”
“Overall, we want more offense out of the middle of our floor,” said Kline. “We want to get the middles more involved in the offense than they typically have been in the past.”
The biggest question mark for the team this season could be who will replace Jessica Zavatchen, a four-year starter for the Bison at the setter position and holder of most of the major setting records for the school.
“It’s not easy losing someone who was the vocal leader of this team over the past few years, but we feel like we have three solid options at the setter position this season,” said Coach Kline. “We really want to find who will be our setter early, and that is why camp has been so important for us this season.”
The three options that Coach Kline has at setter include returning sophomore Emily Crawford (Wooster, Ohio/Wooster), sophomore transfer Mackenzie Lauber (Mansfield, Ohio/Madison Mansfield) and incoming freshman Allie Powell (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central).
Lauber comes to the Bison from Bluffton University, where she put up impressive numbers as a freshman last season. Last year with the Beavers, Lauber posted 969 assists while also totaling 216 digs and 110 kills from the setter position, while appearing in all 31 games. She also posted nine double-doubles on the year.
“The setter is like the quarterback of the volleyball team, and it’s a position that requires a natural kind of leadership. We are still looking at who will be the leader of the team this year from that position.”
The team leader both on and off the court this season could very well come from the libero position, as coach Kline expects great things out of second-year starter, Julia Mouch. The sophomore defensive specialist had a great year as a freshman in 2012, leading the team with 579 digs and helping the team rank second in total digs in the conference, on route to earning an All-Conference Honorable Mention selection.
“Julia is someone that we are expecting to step up,” commented Kline on her sophomore libero. “She is a fierce competitor and someone who gives 100 percent on every single play. You can’t put a price on how hard a worker and player Julia is, and it really shows in her performance on the court.”
Other returners that will see time in the back row include juniors Kelly Becquet (Finleyville, Pa./Ringgold) and Kristen Sroka (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) and sophomore Paige Bragg (Huron, Ohio/Huron).
“Our defense was a one of our strengths last year and we look to be even better at those positions that are important to the defensive effort as we return a lot of key starters and reserves,” said Coach Kline.
To go along with the nine returning players on the team, Kline and her staff are excited about the 15 newcomers that have been brought to camp.
“We are really excited for all the newcomers,” remarked Kline of her new players. “We are looking forward to watching this young team grow together and to cultivate the talent that we see into a PAC championship team.”
The Bison open their season on August 30 at the Bluffton University tournament where the team will take on Bluffton University, Hope College, Alma College and Case Western Reserve University in the two-day event.
Bethany will open its home schedule on Wednesday, September 11 when it hosts a quad match with Chatham University, Pitt-Greensburg and Penn State-Fayette. However, that is one of just seven home dates for the Bison this season as the team plays just 10 games at home while hitting the road for 26 away or neutral site games.
“We have a very tough schedule,” said Coach Kline, “but we are excited for the talent that we will be playing and believe that our girls will respond well to the task.
“We are ready to get the season underway and can’t wait to show all the fans what the 2013 Bison can accomplish.”