By Derek Stiles
The women’s volleyball team has opened up their season in a dominate fashion, winning four of their first five matches. After recording their most successful season since 1997 (19-9) last year, the Shorewomen are looking to take the next step and compete for a playoff spot in the Centennial Conference this season.
“As a team we have high expectations for this season,” Head Coach Jamie Leventry said. “We expect to improve on last year’s record of 19-9. Our goals are to win 20+ matches this season and make a run at the Centennial Conference playoffs. We just missed out on the playoffs this past season and we feel it is our time.”
Despite such high expectations, the critics are plentiful as the Centennial Conference placed the Shorewomen to finish eighth in their preseason conference standings. After a 5-5 conference record last year, Leventry understands the ranking, but he also believes the team has the ability to surpass this.
“So far the team is looking pretty good,” Leventry said. “We have played hard and competed well in practice. This team is a little bigger than last year’s team so we have good competition for playing time, which only makes us better. This past season we finished 5-5 in the conference starting mostly freshmen and sophomores. Now those same players are more experienced and I believe that will lead us to a better finish than most people think.”
Junior Jess Daunoras agreed with her coach’s remarks regarding a larger roster helping the overall dynamic of the team.
“We brought in seven freshmen, and that’s half our team,” Daunoras said. “They came in ready to work and they’ll all be a big part of the success we have this year. Since we now have a bigger roster, the competition in practice is helping us all improve.”
WC began their season winning three of their four games at the Gettysburg Battlefield Classic with their lone loss coming to nationally ranked Eastern University, 0-3. They defeated Salve Regina and Penn State Altoona in straight sets followed by a 3-1 victory over Messiah. Junior Kristen Lee stood out as she leads the team with 44 kills on the season.
“Players to watch this season include Lee, Daunoras, and sophomore Caitlin Cooney,” Leventry said. “Kristen is a junior outside hitter that has earned all-conference accolades for the past two seasons. Daunoras is a junior middle hitter that was one of the leading blockers in the conference last season. She is also a great hitter, hitting for a very high percentage. Cooney is a sophomore outside hitter that I believe is poised for a big season. She has had a very good preseason and played well in our first tournament. I’m expecting big things from these three players this season.”
The Shorewomen followed up their successful tournament with another shutout on the road against Rosemont, setting a program record for most service aces in a match with 23. This broke the previous record of 22, which was set back in 2008 in a four-set match win against Cedar Crest. Lee led the way with six aces followed by freshman Emma Craig with five. Cooney and Lee each provided four kills.
“We have a really strong serving team as well as hitting and passing,” Cooney said. “We’ve been working a lot on our defense so we can be an all-around consistent unit.”
The future looks bright for the Shorewomen as they have the Frostburg State Tournament in their sights before conference play starts up against Johns Hopkins on Sept. 24.
“Right now we are serving and passing at a high level,” Leventry said. “I think our attacking needs to improve from what we’ve seen so far. Once that happens we will be ready to compete with almost anyone on our schedule.”