With the 2012- 2013 season already in full swing, the West Chester Women’s volleyball team is starting to find their rhythm. The team began this season similarly to the last, with back-to-back tournaments on the road. This weekend they headed south to play four games in two days at the Wilmington University tournament, winning three out of four.
Head coach Kassie Bellaver returns for her seventh season at the helm as the Rams look to build on the success they had in 2011-2012. Bellaver was named Coach of the Year for the first time last season after leading the team to their sixth straight post-season appearance. The 2011-2012 season concluded with a loss to a tough California University of Pennsylvania team that would eventually go on to the third round of the NCAA tournament. However, the Rams posted impressive records both at home (10-3), and away (8-4), followed by their deepest post-season run in team history.
This year the team will be without the veteran presence of graduated all-league libero Lisa Campbell, who served as the centerpiece for a talented backline. Julie Boblits and Helen Fitzpatrick (fourth all-time in assists, 2,783) are also notable losses from last year’s squad. Their departures will provide returning senior outside hitter Lexi Kegerise (Led the team with 366 kills last season, named all PSAC first team) and Kelly Martin (230 kills, 34 service aces last season) with a chance to take on a leadership role, as this year’s team includes seven freshmen. Other returning players looking to make an impact this season include junior right side hitter Allison Grammer (77 kills last season) and sophomore middle hitter Julia O’Brien (54 kills last season).
An NCAA rule change will also be in effect this year, with the number of substitutes allowed per set raised from twelve to fifteen. “This works in our favor since we run a 6-2 and sub for the right side hitters, and we also use a defensive specialist” commented Coach Bellaver on the new change. The team successfully implemented the 6-2 formation last season, utilizing six attackers and two setters.
The Rams opened the 2012 campaign on a not- so-high note with a loss to Franklin Pierce last Friday in Millersville, Pa. The match went four sets with the Ravens taking the first two (25-23, 25-19), losing the third (23-25), and stealing a close fourth-set victory (26-24) to seal the win. Kegerise and Julia O’Brien both recorded 10 kills in the loss. Mary Faust had a solid game on both sides of the ball (14 assists, 10 digs), and freshman Mandy Flynn posted 13 assists in her first match as a Golden Ram.
In the second match played last Friday, the team dominated St. Augustine’s, making quick work of the Falcons with wins in three consecutive sets (25-5, 25-18, 25-10) to improve their record to 1-1. Kegerise reminded everyone why she was named to the PSAC first team, netting 14 kills and four service aces. Martin also had a productive game on offense, providing seven kills and two service aces.
Moving into the second day of tournament play in Millersville, the Rams were looking to build off a sound victory against St. Augustine’s. Unfortunately, their record dropped to 1-3 after suffering a defeat to a skilled Dowling team (5-1 record) in four sets (19-25, 25-19, 27-29, 22-25), followed by a loss to Wilmington. The Wilmington match went the distance (25-23, 19-25, 21-25, 25-18, 12-15) and featured excellent performances from Martin (14 kills), and Flynn (20 assists, eight digs).
The tides began to turn for Coach Bellaver’s team, as they traveled to Philadelphia last Tuesday to square off against the Chestnut Hill Griffins. The Rams took the match confidently in three sets (25-18, 25-16, 25-8) en route to their second victory of the year.
Entering this weekend’s tournament in Wilmington, the squad continued to move in a positive direction, notching two more victories in Friday’s action, earning a decisive 3-0 victory against Davis & Elkins (25-19, 25-16, 25-20), followed by a 3-1 win over Concord (18-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20). The winning streak would end at three games, with a hard-fought loss to Saint Rose on Saturday (26-28, 25-22, 24-26, 14-25). Nonetheless, the girls bounced back with an impressive win over Bentley 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-21) later that afternoon, finishing 3-1 overall in the tournament. The team is set to play an away match this coming Tuesday against the University of the Sciences before they get ready to host the annual Ram Fest next weekend at West Chester.
This year’s group has already shown a lot of promise, posting a 5-4 record.
“We are making strides in the right direction, and it is going to be an exciting season,” Bellaver said.
Joshua Shapiro is a second-year student majoring in English and education. He can be reached at JS762110@wcupa.edu