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Aug. 16 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After recording their highest victory total in 17 years last season, the Bethany College volleyball team returns 14 players and brings very high hopes into the 2010 season, which begins Sept. 3-4 at the Marietta Tournament.

The Bison rebounded from a five-win season in 2008 to finish 16-15 last year, their first winning record since 2001 and the most wins since going 22-15 in 1992. Bethany also qualified for the PAC Tournament for the first time since 2004. With so many players returning following a big turnaround year, there is plenty of reason for high hopes at BC.

“We are very excited and very motivated for this season to begin,” said third-year head Courtney Kline, who was named last year’s PAC Coach of the Year. “I was pleased with our progress last season   and there are no more remnants of the old mentality that was here. We worked hard in the spring and I think the players have their goals and sights set high right now.”

Headlining the Bison returners is sophomore setter Jessica Zavatchen (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands), who was the PAC Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-PAC selection after she set a new BC single-season record with 989 assists while finishing second on the team with 284 digs and 22 blocks. Backing up Zavatchen will be junior Megan Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn) and freshman Alyssa Thewes (North Canton, Ohio/St. Thomas).

“Jessica is coming off a tremendous freshman year and has continued to grow and become more confident,” said Kline. “She has worked at becoming more of an offensive threat as well. I am looking forward to her coming in and being a leader and taking control of the offense. Our other setters include Megan, who was transitioned into a defensive role last year and did an excellent job, so we’ll keep her there, and Alyssa, an experienced high school and club player who can also play defense.”

Continuing to improve their play in the back is a focal point for Bethany this year and they return a lot of experience on defense. Junior libero Tiffany Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn), Megan’s twin sister, was Honorable Mention All-PAC after leading BC with 552 digs and ranking second in the PAC in digs per set. Megan, who led the team with 50 service aces, will continue to play in the back and is joined by sophomore Katie Kurtz (Charleroi, Pa.), who had 158 digs and 24 aces last year, senior Sarah Olson (Rices Landing, Pa./Jefferson-Morgan), sophomore Shanan Orum (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park), sophomore transfer Susan Pollins and freshman Chelsea Sroka (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward).

“The Hoffmans have an amazing work ethic and are very devoted to the success of the team,” said Kline. “Tiffany had a great year and also became more confident throughout last season. Her heading up the defense is good because of her experience and she is stepping up as a leader. Megan moved very well into the defensive role last year and we look for her to play right back. Plus with her setting experience, it’s good to have a second set of hands out there.

“Katie battled through injuries last year, but she’s worked hard to come back and we look for her to contribute, as she has a great serve and back row attack,” said Kline. “Sarah is our only senior and she is a good leader and makes everyone work together. Shannan works hard every day and along with Susan, who played a lot at Pitt-Greensburg last year, and Chelsea, a freshman who was a setter in high school but whose main role here will be defense, are also in the mix for time.”

Up front on the right side, the Bison will look to a pair of sophomores in Lauren Goodwill (Canton, Ohio/Jackson), who was second on the team with 194 kills last year, and Janae McGinnis (Huntingdon, Pa.), who sat out part of last year.

“Our right side attack will be paced by Lauren and Janae,” said Kline. “Lauren started to get more aggressive towards the end of last year and we are looking for her to be a big offensive threat this season. Janae battled illnesses throughout last year but she is back in good health. I am excited to see her at 100 percent because she could give us more offensive options and add strength to our blocking.”

In the middle blocker position are a trio of veterans and one newcomer vying for time. Junior Carrie Talkington (Moundsville, W.Va./john Marshall) recorded the top hitting percentage (.277) on the team, as well as a team-best 70 blocks. Sophomores Meredith Holl (Mogadore, Ohio), who registered 159 kills as a freshman, and Amanda Rodabaugh (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward), who turned in 43 kills and 14 blocks last season, return as well while freshman Lenae Walters (Pataskala, Ohio/Watkins Memorial) joins the Bison program.

“Carrie is coming off a good season, as she hit well last year,” said Kline. “She could see time on the outside too because she is a fierce hitter with a very strong swing. Meredith did well too and has become stronger but needs improvements in blocking and shot selection. Amanda saw some time last year and needs to bring more offense, but she is a strong blocker and increased her vertical. And I am looking forward to seeing how Lenae grows because she is a hard worker and she should be in the mix for time.”

The Bison outside hitters boast two returning players in junior Alyssa Schrecengost (Wexford, Pa./Vincentian), the team leader in kills (238) and second in aces (41) and sophomore Taylor Cassidy (Barboursville, W.Va.), who missed most of her freshman season because of injury. The position will be bolstered by a pair of newcomers in 5-10 junior Jessica Cole (Connellsville, Pa.), who transferred from Division II Seton Hill, and freshman Arielle Elsass (Canton, Ohio/Jackson).

“We have a lot of options on the outside this year,” said Kline. “Our most experienced is Alyssa, who had another good season and is a very consistent, solid player. Taylor missed half of her freshman year because of injuries, but worked hard in the spring to make up for it. She just needs to be more consistent and if she does that, she’ll have a good season.

“Jessica transferred from Seton Hill, where she primarily played defense,” said Kline. “In addition to being an excellent defensive player, we look for her to be one of our primary passers this year and she also brings a definite blocking ability on the outside. Arielle is an excellent jumper who blocks well and can run a lot of quick offensive plays. She is versatile, and we are looking at her in the middle as well and she could see time at either position.”

After getting a taste of the PAC Tournament last year, Kline says her team sees bigger things on the horizon if they can improve in a couple areas during the 2010 season.

“Our keys for this year are to become a better blocking and defensive team,” said Kline. “And I say this every year, but we want to develop good leaders. We are still young, but we should start to have good leaders develop this season.

“As far as our goals, I know the players have their sights set high and I have set mine pretty high too,” said Kline. “We want to make the PAC Tournament again and possibly go even farther and try to earn an ECAC Tournament bid. Last year was a good stepping stone, but we don’t want to be complacent with just having a winning record. We want to build on last year’s success and take it to the next level.”