The preseason coaches’ poll announced that West Chester University’s volleyball team was picked to finish in second place behind Lock Haven University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). “We were selected to finish 2nd but our team goal is first reaching the playoffs and then getting past the quarterfinals,” head coach Kassie Bellaver said.
Under coach Bellaver, WCU finished last season with a 23-15 overall record and was 8-11 in the PSAC. The 23 wins that the Lady Rams earned last season were good enough to place them in a three- team tie for second place with both Kutztown and Shippensburg.
After receiving the fourth seed out of the Eastern Division in the playoffs, WCU lost to eventual Eastern Division champion Lock Haven in the quarterfinals of the PSAC Tournament.
In each of the last three seasons, head coach Kassie Bellaver has won at least 20 games, and has finished as high as second place in the last two campaigns. She returns all six starters and lost just one senior off the bench from last year’s team.
First team all-leaguers Michelle Powers and Helen Fitzpatrick return for the Rams, along with second team honorees Lisa Campbell and Lexi Kegerise. Expectations are high for WCU volleyball this season and they should be.
Shippensburg University finished in third in the East and was followed by Kutztown University in fourth. East Stroudsburg and Millersville tied for fifth place while Cheyney rounded out the poll in seventh.
In the West, California (Pa.) received three first-place votes to edge out second-place Clarion by just two points. Gannon and Edinboro placed third and fourth, respectively. Mercyhurst, IUP and Slippery Rock rounded out the poll.
The PSAC division has been getting much stronger over the past few years. Last season, for the second time in the last three years, the PSAC had six teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament – California (Pa.), Clarion, Edinboro, Gannon, Lock Haven and Mercyhurst, with Cal. winning the region and advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight for the third straight season.
As a freshman last season, outside hitter Lexi Kegerise was a big part of WCU’s success. With her freshman year now under her belt, Kegerise is expected by her coaches and teammates to have a break-out year. Kegerise finished her first year at WCU in second place on the team in kills with 294, which makes her the team’s most powerful option from the outside.
Another solid option for Bellaver and her staff is senior Ashley Focht. Focht accumulated 116 kills last season from the outside.
Opposing coaches will have a tough time stopping the Golden Rams attack especially with Kelly Martin and first team all-leaguer Michelle Powers in the middle. Martin, a sophomore from Whitby, Ontario made a name for herself last year, finishing third on the team in kills with 198 and first on the team in blocks with a total of 106.
Perhaps the most decorated Lady Ram, Michelle Powers will be finishing up her career at WCU this season.
“As far as team goals go, I’d like to see us win 20-plus games for the fourth year in a row. Another goal would be to make it past the first round of PSAC playoffs, and furthermore making it into the NCAA tournament,” said Powers. “With the returning players we have and the talented freshman class that came in, I have no doubt that we will be a very tough team to beat this year. Personally, I hope to stay healthy and continue to be a contributing factor in helping our team reach its goals.”
In 2009, Powers led the team in kills with 308, and was second on the team in blocks with 99. Bellaver has big time players that she can rely on up front. Martin and Powers will make up the two-headed monster that WCU needs up front to take this team deep into the playoffs this season. Between the two of them, count on getting at least 200 blocks and over 500 kills a season.
Now a junior, setter Helen Fitzpatrick was arguably the most consistent Golden Ram last year. Looking at the season that Powers and Kegerise had, a lot of the credit has to be given to Fitzpatrick. Finishing the 2009 season with 1039 assists helped her receive first team honors.
One area that coach Bellaver has no concern with is the setter position. In addition to setting up her teammates, Fitzpatrick had 109 kills and was third on the team in blocks with 59.
In the Golden Rams’ back court, Lisa Campbell’s name will always come up. Not only is Campbell a “dig” machine, she also has great leadership qualities. Starting her junior year, Campbell will again be the libero for this team.
A libero plays a special roll in team defense and passing. The libero is the player on the volleyball team that can come into the game and replace any player on the back row. Last season Campbell led the team with 567 digs, and had 60 aces.
Playing alongside Campbell in the back row this season will be seniors Kyra Yost and Nora Jingeleski. Both Yost and Jingeleski are dependable defensive specialists that pass the ball extremely well. Yost finished her junior season with 248 digs, while Jingeleski finished with 191 digs.
Two names that WCU volleyball fans should keep an eye on this season are newcomers Julie Boblits and true freshman Allison Grammer. Both players are outside hitters that will provide some depth behind Ashley Focht and Lexi Kegerise.
As of now it is hard to tell how this team will do in this upcoming season.
Due to the fact that they are returning six starters, they should win close to 30 games this season. They should finish in at least second place in the PSAC East conference.
Even though they face tough opponents in the beginning of their season, fans should be keeping their eyes on WCU’s October 2nd matchup with Lock Haven. It will be a solid measuring stick for coach Bellaver and her staff to measure her team in early October.
West Chester opens the 2010 season on Sept. 3-4 at the Kutztown tournament. The Golden Rams are scheduled to play C.W. Post, St. Rose and LeMoyne that weekend.
Steven Fisher is a fourth-year student majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.