Thu, Aug. 16, 2012 - [Volleyball]
2011 record: 19-23 (3-6 MCC, 7th)
Starters returning/lost: 2/4
Letterwinners returning/lost: 12/11
Lacey Taylor Sr. Cedar
(First-team all-MCC, 435 kills, 494 digs, 41 aces, 52 blocks)
Katie Rielly Sr. Oskaloosa
(271 kills, 108 digs, 60 blocks)
Dayna Sammons So. Menomonee Falls, Wis.
(587 assists, 32 aces, 260 digs)
Alanna Connors Jr. Libertyville, Ill.
(599 digs, 23 aces)
Kylie Giger Fr. Elkhart, Ind.
Emily McHugh Fr. Plainfield, Ill.
Leyra Jusino Fr. Bayamon, P.R.
Danielle Breeher Fr. St. Louis, Mo.
Improved defense and setting is expected to put the Lady Statesmen volleyball team in the mix for a conference title this fall.
William Penn was just 19-23 in 2011 (3-6 Midwest Collegiate Conference), but productive hitters are back on the court and the coaching staff has also imported new talent at the setter position and on defense.
"We never reached our potential last year, but we are looking at opening a new chapter this fall," Head Coach Jeremy Wise said. "We had a tremendous spring and the team really gelled and worked extremely hard."
Brittany Rohling and Christa Subbert, two of the navy and gold's top hitters from a year ago, have graduated, but seniors Lacey Taylor (Sr., Cedar, Iowa Western CC) and Katie Rielly (Sr., Oskaloosa, Des Moines Area CC) return for their final go-round.
"Lacey and Katie are great players who will pace our offensive attack," Wise said. "They were great leaders in the spring and I expect them to have big senior campaigns."
Wise also signed several new individuals to fill in some holes, most notably improving the team's setting and defense.
"We are as deep as ever on defense and have a tremendous group of setters coming in to run our offense," Wise said. "As long as we can keep our hitters healthy, we should be in a better situation than last year."
Taylor and Rielly produced sizeable numbers in 2011 and the offense should again run through them. Taylor tallied a team-best 435 kills with a .334 attack percentage, while Rielly added 271 kills with 60 blocks. Taylor's 41 aces top all 2012 returners as well.
"Both Lacey and Katie are strong hitters and are some of our best players in serve reception," Wise said.
Courtney Kennedy (So., Moville, Woodbury Central HS) also returns to provide returning depth. The sophomore served as a role player last year, seeing time as a backup.
"Courtney has a very good serve and will add depth for us," Wise said.
Ashley Myers (So., Chillicothe, Mo., Chillicothe HS) and DeAuntra Pryor (Fr., East Chicago, Ill., East Chicago Central HS) represent a duo who will also challenge for the starting spots.
"Ashley Myers is very quick and athletic and brings a lot of speed to the court," Wise said. "DeAuntra is a scrappy, tenacious player who can do a little of everything."
Right Side Hitter
The opposite side of the court is not as deep for the Lady Statesmen, but Wise still sees plenty of potential for points.
Hillary Fisher (Sr., Tucker, Ga., Tucker HS) and Corrie Bailey (Jr., Fayetteville, Ark., Home School) bring the most experience to the right side, but 2011 starting libero Alanna Connors (Jr., Libertyville, Ill., Libertyville HS) spent extensive time there during the spring and may end up leading the charge.
Connors recorded 29 kills in 2011 in addition to leading all players with 599 digs.
"Hillary and Corrie add experience, but Alanna did a great job there in the spring, especially with ball control," Wise said.
Jordan Machorro (Fr., Allen, Texas, Allen HS) joins the conversation as a newcomer.
"Jordan was an outstanding athlete for her high school and we expect the same here," Wise said. "She possesses a tough serve. She will also be competing in track here."
Jeanette Cunningham (Jr., Mt. Orab, Ohio, Western Brown HS) was sidelined for part of 2011 by injury, but if she is back at 100%, her presence will certainly be noted. She was one of the team's top two middle hitters last year, contributing 163 kills and 91 blocks, the most of any returner.
"Jeanette hits a hard, quick ball and, if healthy, will definitely be one of our top middle hitters," Wise said.
Ana Gutch (So., Eddyville, Eddyville-Blakesburg HS) and Chelsea Aschenbrenner (So., Agency, Cardinal HS) have a year of college play under their belt and are projected to also find time on the court.
Gutch produced 27 kills and 14 blocks in 2011.
"Ana really contributed at middle hitter this spring and gives a huge block," Wise said. "Chelsea has improved a lot since stepping on the court. She brings great intensity and hard work to the court every day."
Kylie Giger (Fr., Elkhart, Ind., Elkhart Memorial HS) enters as one of the team's most promising prospects, while Emily Giles (Fr., New Salisbury, Ind., North Harrison HS) and Kahala Kaowili (Fr., Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Ke Kula Kaiapuni O Anuenue-Na Koa HS) will battle for time as well.
"Kylie will push for a starting spot as a freshman," Wise said. "She runs a variety of quick attacks and blocks well."
"Emily is a versatile player who may be asked to play different hitting positions for us," Wise said. "Kahala has shown good leadership for her club and high school teams and will provide always-welcome depth."
Dayna Sammons (So., Menomonee Falls, Wis., Menomonee Falls HS) was one of the starters in a two-setter formation last fall, but made it known she could play by herself if necessary, after being the only setter in a successful spring campaign.
In 2011, Sammons assisted on 587 winners in addition to 38 kills, 32 aces, and 260 digs.
"Despite being just a sophomore, Dayna is a great leader and is ready to run the offense, if we go with a one-setter look," Wise said.
Allison Schulz (So., Ottumwa, Ottumwa HS) returns for her sophomore year and could earn time at setter or as a defensive specialist.
"Allison was put in different situations all last year and found success, especially on defense," Wise said. "She had a great spring season."
Emily McHugh (Fr., Plainfield, Ill., Plainfield North HS) and Leyra Jusino (Bayamon, P.R., Colegio Beato Carlos M. Rodriguez HS) bring different, yet vital, aspects to the program and will battle for the starting nod as well.
"Emily is another versatile player whose height could also help us on the right side," Wise said. "She jump-sets well, while Leyra has great hands and good defensive court awareness."
"Our setters have the ability to make all tempo sets and that should speed up our attack this season," Wise added.
With Connors possibly finding a new home as a hitter, the starting libero position is fairly wide open with a pair of returners facing off against a newbie.
Kendyl Honeywell (Jr., Excelsior Springs, Mo., Excelsior Springs HS) took over the role in the spring, but the versatility of Lindsey Kimler (So., Dugway, Utah, Dugway HS) will also be a factor.
Honeywell dug 32 shots last season.
"With Alanna moving, that opened this position up for Kendyl in the spring and she did well in passing and serve reception," Wise said. "Lindsey is primarily a defensive player, but she might work as a setter as well. Her work ethic is tremendous."
Danielle Breeher (Fr., St. Louis, Mo., Oakville HS) might surprise the duo, however, as she begins her inaugural year.
"Danielle did a great job at our open gyms," Wise said. "She is a true libero and brings a lot of speed and quality passing to the court. Our defense should be as solid as ever and hopefully that will transition us into a smooth offensive attack."
Again this season, William Penn will begin its campaign at the Mount Mercy Tournament on August 24-25. Fans will unfortunately have to hit the highway for much of the navy and gold schedule as the Lady Statesmen play in Oskaloosa just eight times, including the home opener on September 5 against Loras. Parents/Senior Night is scheduled for October 24 versus Iowa Wesleyan.
"We play a few less tournaments this year, instead replacing them with triangulars," Wise said. "For the most part, however, our schedule is similar to that of last year. We look for some tough early tournaments to prepare us for a difficult conference season and some late tests to set us up for the playoff push."
Last season, Grand View, the defending regular season and tournament champion, Viterbo, and St. Ambrose were all ranked, earning the MCC a new level of respect from the rest of the NAIA. That respect has carried over into 2012 with Grand View entering the preseason at #13 in the NAIA national poll, while Viterbo is unofficially 31st.
With the leading three programs returning most of their lineups, they will be hard to catch this year, but Wise feels like William Penn and the rest of the league is equally talented and will be nipping at their heels.
"The MCC really stepped up last year and with the top three teams all being ranked at one time, we gained a lot of respect for our conference," Wise. "I really do not feel like there is much of a drop from the top three to the rest of us, so it could be a messy logjam all year long."
"We had a lot of success back in the spring and we are hoping to continue that into this fall," Wise said. "Our ladies really worked hard and gelled and if that happens quickly with our newcomers, we should be very competitive all season."