August 21 - BETHANY, W.Va. – With 11 freshmen on this year’s team, the Bethany College volleyball team will have a far different look in its second year under head coach Courtney Kline. The Bison open the season Sept. 3 with a match at LaRoche (Pa.) College.
Bethany finished 8-22 last year in their inaugural campaign under Kline, who hit the recruiting trail hard to bring in the 11 newcomers. Not only is it a large group in terms of numbers, but it’s also a tall class, with nine standing at 5’8” or taller. By comparison, of the eight returning players, only two stand above 5’8”. With the roster being the biggest Kline has worked with in her entire coaching career, it’s a different, albeit very good, opening for camp.
“I don’t have words to describe how good this is,” said Kline. “With Molly (Klink) here as an assistant, this is the perfect roster size. I was a little concerned at first about the range of skill of level we might have, but after the first couple practices, I am thrilled with how everyone has come in ready to play and been very impressed with our aggression, communication and team spirit.”
Although the Bison return eight players from last year, the freshmen will be given opportunities to earn playing time in their first year, which will lead to a lot of fun practices, according to Kline.“We are going to have a very competitive camp,” said Kline. “We now have at least three players per position, with upperclassmen and freshmen fighting it out. There is always going to be someone on your heels, ready to play, so it should make for some incredible practices. The best players will play and the girls all know that.”
One spot where the Bison will turn to a freshman immediately is at setter. Talented newcomer Megan Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn) will step right into that role for Kline, while sophomore Lindsay Olson (Rices Landing, Pa./Jefferson-Morgan), who had 55 digs and was fourth on the squad with 25 aces, will push for time at a couple different positions.
“Megan will take immediate action running our offense and stepping into a leadership role,” said Kline. “Although very young, Megan is a skilled athlete who plays with heart and determination. She is a quiet leader, and I believe with time, will demand 100% from her teammates. Lindsay will take on the role as back up setter, and also possibly see time as a serving and defensive specialist.”
The Bison’s infusion of size will be truly felt among the middle blockers. Senior Sumer Scott (Triadelphia, W.Va./Wheeling Park), who had 103 kills and was second on the team with 31 blocks, is the top returner. Three freshmen will be looking to make their mark in the middle as well, including 5’10” Carrie Talkington (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall), 6’0” Emily Tevis (Wintersville, Ohio/Indian Creek) and 6’0” Sue Grande (Farrell, Pa.).
“Sumer improved tremendously last season and she will see time in the middle,” said Kline. “Carrie has a lot of raw, natural ability and will be worked very hard to get her where we need her to be, but she’ll definitely see time. Emily and Sue both have nice size and execute their blocks well. Sue could also see time in the middle or on the right-side.”
The Bison’s group of outside hitters will have to step up to replace Lauren Spegal, who graduated after finishing her career with a Bethany-record 1,289 career kills. To take over for her, Kline will turn to sophomore Emily Stewart (Latrobe, Pa./Greater Latrobe), who was second behind Spegal with 257 kills last year, and three freshmen, including Cami Meadows (Canton, Ohio/McKinley), Alyssa Schrecengost (Wexford, Pa./Vincentian Academy) and Tiffany Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn), twin sister of Megan.
“Emily has worked hard and improved her vertical over the summer through our jumping program,” said Kline. “Cami is an extremely talented overall player with a very powerful swing, is a strong passer and good defensive player. Alyssa has impressed me as a hard worker who hits strong and has a very aggressive serve too. Tiffany is a great passer who moves well. We’ll look for her to get time in the front row and possibly as a defensive specialist/libero.”
The right side is a crowded group with four new faces. Two freshmen who have played well early on are Kristen Woge (Cochranton, Pa.) and Tracey Hall (Newell, W.Va./Oak Glen), while two others, Nancy Hitt (Export, Pa./Greensburg Central Catholic) and Mallory McKnight (Pataskula, Ohio/Newark Catholic) have been hampered by injuries early in camp.
“Among the right-side hitters, Kristen is very strong and I’ve been extremely impressed with her because she came to camp 100 percent ready,” said Kline. “Tracey did play in the middle but is very natural for the right side and is a hard hitter. We haven’t had a chance to see Nancy or Mallory yet because of injuries, but they were talented high school players and we are anxious to get them on the court here and see what they can do.”
The Bison’s libero position has two returning players battling for time, as well as one first-year player in sophomore Kaelin Creange (Chesapeake, Va./Hickory), who did not play in 2007. Junior Rachael Dunham (Gans, Pa./Albert Gallatin) brought up 298 digs last year to rank second on the team, while sophomore Sarah Olson (Rices Landing, Pa./Jefferson-Morgan) was third on the team with 253 digs last season as a defensive specialist.
“It should be a good competition for the libero position,” said Kline. “Rachael does a good job of getting to loose balls and keeping it in play, Sarah is a good passer, as well as a strong serve receiver and Kaelin didn’t play last year and is a little rusty right now, but she improves every practice and is in good physical condition.”
With so many fresh players this fall, there is renewed excitement about where the Bethany volleyball program is going. And while Kline is anxious for the season to get here to see what the Bison will look like, she doesn’t want to think in terms of wins and losses for the upcoming year.