Eagles Ready to Make Impact in 2010
“I think we had a successful season last year, but it ended a little disappointingly,” said third-year head coach Chad Callihan. “I think there is a bitter taste left which has helped motivate the kids and add a little fuel to their fire. We seem very motivated and have had a good camp. It’s nice to see them carry a positive attitude and I expect to see that continue throughout the season.”
Included in the 11 returning letterwinners are 2009 All-Conference honorees Bethany Sanford (Avondale, Ariz.) and Kate Van Dyke. (Shawnee, Kan.) Sanford, an All-Freshman selection in 2008, led the team in kills (390) and ranked second in the Southern Conference tallying 3.48 kills per set.
Van Dyke averaged 10.59 assists per set, collecting a team-high 1,228 over the season, and ranked second in the league in that statistical category. The sophomore, who also earned All-Freshman accolades, was named SoCon Player of the Week once, while Sanford earned the recognition twice.
Also returning are three players who will compete in their last season as Eagles: seniors Sarah Gildersleeve (Naples, Fla.), Leah Kettelson (Wray, Colo.) and Lindsey O’Connor (Alpharetta, Ga.). Gildersleeve and O’Connor are embarking on their fourth year with the program, while Kettelson, who transferred as a sophomore will enter her third.
Led by Sanford, the Eagles were second in the Southern Conference with a .257 hitting percentage. The Eagles, paced by Sanford with 390 kills and a .235 hitting percentage, led the SoCon in kills.The Eagles edged 2008 tournament champion, Furman, with a 14.13 kills per set average.
The Eagles were also second in the conference in assists, primarily led by Van Dyke at the setter position. GS finished just behind Furman, recording 12.78 assists per set. Georgia Southern was also third in service aces and fourth in digs.
Entering the 2010 season, GS has a major role to fill, that of the libero. Lost to graduation was a very talented defensive player in Cristin Haines. A junior college transfer in 2008, Haines immediately made an impact on the squad setting a single season record in digs recorded in both seasons. The Eagles brought in a newcomer to help fill the role and will challenge a pair of returners for the libero position.
With the core of the roster returning, the Eagles added depth to the roster with the addition of three newcomers. Looking to make an impact on the team will be Lauren LaRocque (Borger, Texas), Enjoli Johnson (Lilburn, Ga.) and Nicole Jeschelnik (Ladera Ranch, Calif.). Each freshman brings a talented resume to the court and will challenge for playing time.
A recurring theme from the coaching staff each season has always been the strength of schedule and 2010 will be no different. The Eagles kick the season off at Auburn in the War Eagle Invitational and will face three 2009 NCAA Volleyball Championship participants during the season, including 2009 SoCon Champion College of Charleston.
Always continuing to get better, the Southern Conference slate will be a difficult one in 2010. “I think the league has improved every year for the past few years and I don’t see 2010 being any different,” said Callihan. “I think it is going to be a dog fight every week, which makes it fun and exciting for our fans and players. It should be a very challenging league this year.”
The Eagles bring back a talented core of middle blockers including three that gained tremendous experience in the 2009 season. Senior , arguably one of the best hitters/blockers on the team, will look to compete for a starting spot this season. She led the team in total blocks last season with 55, setting a season-high with seven against Appalachian State on October 24. Gildersleeve, who will provide senior leadership for the team, owns a career-high eight blocks against Toledo in 2008. “Sarah is a hard-working kid that came up big for us in some matches last season,” stated Callihan. “She is very good offensively and is probably one of our best hitters/blockers as far as doing both well.”
, who set a career-high four blocks in the Stetson match last season, also has the experience of being a senior in her arsenal. “Leah has provided good depth for us the past two years and really brings a positive attitude to the team along with a great work ethic that filters down to the rest of the group,” Callihan said. Rounding out the upperclassmen, the Eagles bring back junior Parker Small (Charlotte, N.C.) who picked up 49 total blocks including three solo blocks (second on the team). Small owns a career-high eight blocks against Presbyterian College in 2008. “Parker had a good sophomore season after coming back from a foot injury,” noted Callihan. “She really came on in the spring and we’re expecting big things from her. If she can stay healthy, she has the potential to be an All-Conference type player.”
Finally, Moriah Bellissimo (Blackstone, Va.) returns after a stellar freshman campaign. The sophomore started at both middle and right side last season before being sidelined at the end due to an injury. Bellissimo starred in 76 games and racked up 52 total blocks. “Moriah is a dynamic athlete that can attack from a lot of different angles,” said Callihan. “She can do a lot of different things for us and we will look for her to compete for a starting position.”
The blocking quartet adds an incoming freshman to the lineup in . A longtime basketball player, Johnson is quickly picking up the game of volleyball and has shown tremendous strides thus far in preseason practice. “Enjoli is an explosive athlete that is doing incredibly well in the gym and picking up the game quickly,” Callihan stated. “The biggest thing I’ve seen so far is that she’s so coachable. She’s very good at taking what we say and translating it into action. We’ve been really impressed by her so far.”
The power to the lineup returns with two starters accompanied by two reserves and a newcomer. Leading the way is junior , a 2009 All-Conference selection and 2008 All-Freshman honoree. Sanford led the team with 390 kills and a 3.48 kills per set average. The junior hit .235 as a sophomore and was also second on the team in digs recording 332. “Bethany is an explosive athlete that has worked hard to improve her ball control and defense,” said Callihan. “Her game should step up even a little further this year and she can be a real difference maker for us this season.”
Joining Sanford in a starting capacity is the emotional spark plug of the team, fellow classmate Lauren Claybaugh (Danville, Calif.). A right side transitioned into an outside hitter last season, Claybaugh was second on the team in kills with 275. “Lauren started for us on the outside last year and really complimented Bethany with her shot making and defense,” noted Callihan. “We’re looking for the same from her this year and hopefully even more ball control and defense.”
Juniors Hayli Ketner (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Hannah Nelson (Norcross, Ga.) complete the returning core of hitters. Ketner was a spot starter last season appearing in 45 games, while Nelson played a prominent role before missing the last half of the season. “The biggest thing for Hayli will be to continue developing more consistency. If she can do that, she can be a solid contributor for us this season,” stated Callihan. “Hannah has really improved her all-around game which is allowing her to be more of a force both front row and back row. She adds another element as a lefty that makes it difficult for opposing defenses with the quickness at which we are able to run her.”
Joining the hitting corps will be incoming freshman , MVP her senior season at JSerra Catholic High School. Jeschelnik brings an impressive resume having been named First Team Trinity League and All-County Honorable Mention. “We brought Nicole in looking for her to be a strong attacker for us, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by her ball control and defense. She is an explosive athlete, jumps well and we expect her to have a really good career as an Eagle,” said Callihan.
The molding to the foundation of the team, sophomore setter returns after an impressive freshman campaign. Van Dyke appeared in all 116 games as a freshman and became a member of the Georgia Southern Volleyball record book, dishing out 1,229 assists. Her freshman statistics rank fourth in single-season assists and second in assists per game average with a 10.59. “Kate is a very, very good setter and has great location,” noted Callihan. “She is a quiet floor leader for us and really has a nice all around game. With another year of seasoning on the court, we’ll see her game step up to another level.”
A pair of defensive specialists return to compliment Van Dyke at the setter role. Senior Lindsey O’Connor and sophomore Ashleigh Wienbarg (Monroe, Ga.) add some depth to the role and will both compete for playing time this year. A strong server, O’Connor played defense in a few matches last season and picked up a kill, assist and five digs. “Lindsey is another kid with a strong work ethic and a good teammate,” Callihan stated. “She has a really strong serve and we would like to see her step up in some serving situations.” As a freshman, Wienbarg stamped out a defensive specialist role and recorded 62 digs, 11 assists, nine service aces and three kills. “Ashleigh has good serve receive and is a good ball controller. If she can continue to improve her defensive range, she could be a solid contributor for us this year,” commented Callihan.
The Eagles lost only one player from the 2009 squad, libero who set dig records in both her seasons as an Eagle. A paramount role to fill, the Eagles will look to a freshman and a few returners to step into the shoes. An incoming freshman, will compete to fill the libero position. LaRocque helped lead the Frisco Centennial High School Titans to back-to-back FISD Tournament Championships in 2008 and 2009. She was a First Team All-District honoree her senior season. “Lauren is a freshman libero/DS who has very good instincts on the court,” said Callihan. “She has very good defensive range and we will really be looking for her to push for the libero role this season.”
- Category: Volleyball
- Published on Thursday, 19 August 2010 09:16