Tommies take 35-game win streak and national championship into new season
After capturing a national title last season, St. Thomas (Minn.) took first place in the preseason poll. St. Thomas returns nine of its top 11 players, including two All-Americans, from last season’s national champion squad. Head coach Thanh Pham needs 13 victories to reach 300 in his 11th season with the Tommies. St. Thomas takes a 35-match winning streak into this fall.
That includes eight Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and eight playoff berths. In conference regular-season play, Pham has guided St. Thomas (Minn.) to a 99-11 record. Each of their first six opponents is ranked in the top 30-point getters in the Division III preseason poll. Adding to their challenge, the Toms play 18 of their first 20 matches on road or neutral courts.
Last season, the Tommies won their final 27 regular-season matches and completed an 11-0 run in the MIAC. They capped an 8-0 sweep of postseason matches with a 3-2 victory against Calvin in the NCAA title match. They became the first conference volleyball team to capture an NCAA championship. They also were just the fifth team in 94 all-time Division I, II and III volleyball championship matches to recover from a 2-0 set deficit and claim the title.
The Tommies’ eight newcomers are all freshmen. Setter Maddie Reese (1,765 career assists) helped Eden Prairie place second in the Minnesota state tournament. Hitter Taylor Lewis was HM all-state and academic all-state in leading her Lincoln, Neb., team to the state tournament.
St. Thomas (Minn.) opens its season against No. 8 Emory and No. 3 Wittenberg in the Aug. 30-31 Wittenberg tournament. Emory handed St. Thomas its lone defeat of 2012, a five-set decision in Atlanta in early September. The MIAC opener is Sept. 18 at home against Macalester.
Calvin returns nine letterwinners from last year’s team that finished 33-3 overall and on top of the MIAA standings with a 16-0 conference mark. The senior class is headlined by soon-to-be four-year starting setter Megan Rietema. Rietema possesses height and an impressive wingspan up front at the net that allows her not only to be an offensive threat, but also a defensive weapon.
A two-time AVCA Division III All-American, including a first team choice last year, Rietema averaged 10.43 assists per set last year while averaging just under one block per set. A three-time first team All-MIAA selection, she also compiled an attack percentage of .325 and averaged 2.17 digs-per-set. Rietema spent the offseason playing overseas with an AVCA All-America team in Costa Rica and is primed for a big senior year.
Calvin’s schedule kicks off with a bang as the Knights will travel to the west coast to face a slew of top-flight teams in a tournament hosted by Puget Sound which Calvin faced in the 2012 national quarterfinals. On August 30, Calvin will face Wartburg and Pacific Lutheran and follow with matches against Puget Sound and UC-Santa Cruz on Aug. 31. Pacific Lutheran was ranked 21st and Puget Sound ninth in last year’s final AVCA Division III Top 25 poll.
“We’ve got a rugged schedule ahead of us but we are looking forward to the challenge,” head coach Amber Warners said. “I think first of all, the level of competition within our own league continues to improve and we will have a target on our backs every match we play so we will need to be ready. I think our non-conference schedule speaks for itself. I’m not sure there are too many other schools at the Division III level that will play a non-conference schedule as challenging as ours but that’s a good thing because our program is at the level now where it needs to be play a schedule like that."
Coming off a 27-5 record and a No. 5 ranking in the final 2012 poll, the Tigers welcome 10 letterwinners back to the roster, including four starters. The leader in 2013 will be senior middle hitter Andrea Behling, who is coming off a breakout campaign. En route to honorable mention All-American honors a year ago, Behling pounded 305 kills to rank third on the team while leading the Tigers in blocks with 78.
Behling figures to take an even more prominent role in 2013, combining with 2012 NCAA Division III National Freshman of the Year Kara Seidenstricker to keep opposing defenses off balance. Seidenstricker earned North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Great Lakes Regional Freshman of the Year honors after topping the squad with 367 kills and 36 service aces and ranking third with 66 blocks and digs with 566.
A total of 11 newcomers have reinforced the roster in 2013, joining returning sophomore letterwinners Kristina Fultz, Callan Swaim, Bryanna Jay and Brooke Barney in a battle for playing time. Also in the mix is sophomore Katie Zito, who missed most of the 2012 season due to injury.
The 2011 NCAA Division III national champion, Wittenberg opens the 2013 campaign behind only defending national titlist St. Thomas and 2010 champion Calvin, which defeated the Tigers in a tense 3-2 decision in the 2012 NCAA Division III Tournament Round of 16.
Under head coach Paco Labrador, the Tigers have compiled a 323-46 record since 2003, including an NCAC regular season mark of 122-2. He leads active NCAA Division III coaches with a .875 win percentage and ranks second among active coaches in all NCAA divisions.
After winning its first conference title since the 2004 season and reaching the semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 1987 season, the Elmhurst volleyball team knows the only way to top its 2012 season is to bring home the ultimate prize, a national championship trophy.
Last season was one for the record books as head coach Julie Hall's squad turned in its best performance in Hall's 19 years at Elmhurst. The 2012 squad posted a 33-8 overall record, went undefeated in conference play to win its first conference title in eight seasons, and then blazed trail to the national semifinals of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national champion St. Thomas (Minn.).
Hall's squad has no shortage of talent as the Bluejays are led by a pair of senior All-American middle hitters in Megan Reynolds and Kaitlyn Wilks. Reynolds, a three-time All-American in her career, earned first-team All-American and the conference player of the year in 2012 while leading the Bluejays in kills (430), kills per set (2.89), attacking percentage (.338), blocks (179) and blocks per set (1.20).
Wilks enjoyed a breakout junior campaign, collecting first-team all-conference honors and honorable mention All-American honors from the AVCA while totaling 289 kills, 2.21 kills per set and 101 blocks.
Aiming for a return trip to Holland, Mich., and the NCAA championship, Hall has taken last season's challenging schedule and made it even tougher. The Bluejays are scheduled to play 11 contests against teams that finished the 2012 season ranked among the top-25 in the nation, including matches against 2012 national semifinalists Christopher Newport, Calvin and a rematch against the Tommies.
Holding onto its spot in the top-five of the AVCA rankings, Christopher Newport will enter the 2013 campaign tied for fifth in the national poll after the Captains earned 916 points and a first-place vote in the preseason rankings released by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
In the top-five for the 14th consecutive national poll dating back to 2011, the Captains are coming off of a tremendous 2012 campaign. During the year, the squad compiled a record-breaking 40-3 mark and captured its fourth consecutive NCAA regional crown. Eventually, CNU rolled to the final four for the second consecutive year and wrapped up the season ranked third in the nation.
Hoping to continue the program's incredible run of dominance over the past decade, Christopher Newport brings back a pair of All-Americans from last year's squad. Chastity Lacy headlines the veteran contingent and is the lone senior on the roster. In 2012, she had a breakout season while ranking second on the team with 124 blocks and a .304 hitting percentage. For her performance, she earned honorable mention All-American honors and was a first-team All-Region selection.
Vying for the program's seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the Captains will be tested throughout the year by a challenging schedule. The 2013 slate features nine other teams in the top 25, including No. 4 Elmhurst, No. 8 Emory, and No. 10 Cal Lutheran. Fellow Capital Athletic Conference foe Salisbury also earned national recognition, settling in at No. 22 in the preseason poll.
The Flying Dutch have their sights set this season on contending for the 12th Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship in school history and the 11th berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Hope is coming off a 29-5 season in which the Flying Dutch reached the 20-win mark for the eighth consecutive time and advanced to the second round of the national tournament in their fifth consecutive postseason appearance. Hope finished seventh in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III poll.
The Flying Dutch will play at home on 10 different dates during the regular season, beginning with the Sept. 3 MIAA opener against Alma College. Coach Becky Schmidt is entering her 10th season at Hope. She is the program's all-time wins leader for coaches with a 236-68 record, including a 141-19 mark in MIAA play.
Hope's preseason roster of 26 features 13 returning letterwinners, including three seniors, six juniors and five sophomores, and 13 freshmen. Co-captains are senior middle hitter Courtney Earles, junior outside hitter Jenna Grasmeyer, senior middle hitter Mari Schoolmaster and junior middle hitter Jillian Sommerville.
In 2012, the Flying Dutch were the Division III national leader in two statistical categories. Hope led the 420 Division III teams in assists per set at 12.82 and kills per set at 13.88. The Flying Dutch also ranked eighth in hitting percentage at .268 and 32nd in blocks per set at 2.12.
Washington-St. Louis is scheduled to face nine of the top-25 teams this season: No. 2 Calvin, No. 3 Wittenberg, No. 4 Elmhurst, No. 5 Hope, No. 8 Emory, No. 12 Chicago, No. 13 Wisconsin-Whitewater, No. 20 Juniata and No. 21 Pacific Lutheran. The Bears will also face three teams who were among those receiving votes: Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Cornell (Iowa) and Ohio Northern.
Washington-St. Louis returns four starters and 12 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that finished with a 31-4 overall record. The Bears finished second in the University Athletic Association (UAA) and advanced to the NCAA Division III Regional Championship for the 26th consecutive year.
The Bears begin the 2013 season with eight consecutive home matches, including two against top-25 opponents. Washington-St. Louis squares off against Webster University in the season opener on Aug. 30.
Head coach Jenny McDowell enters her 18th season at the helm of the program with a total of eight letterwinners, including five with starting experience, back in the fold from last year's club that fashioned an overall won-lost ledger of 33-6. Along the way, the Eagles captured their third University Athletic Association championship in four years (fifth overall) while capturing the program's 17th consecutive berth to the NCAA D-III tournament.
Sophomore setter Sydney Miles, a first team All-American choice after leading the UAA and ranking 10th nationally in assists (10.74 apg) last year, highlights the returnees which also includes junior outside hitter Kate Bowman, who stood third on the team in kills per set in 2012, and sophomore libero Taylor Erwin, an honorable mention selection to the All-South Region Team.
The Eagles open the 2013 campaign the weekend of August 30-31 when they travel to Springfield, Ohio, to compete in the national invitational where two of their three opponents will be defending national champions St. Thomas (Minn.) along with No. 3-ranked and host Wittenberg.
All seven starters return from last year's team that advanced deep into the NCAA tournament and will undoubtedly be looking to make an even deeper run this year.
This season's expectations grew when a poll of the Northwest Conference coaches heavily favored the Loggers to come away from the 2013 season with an NWC title. The Loggers received seven of the eight possible first-place votes in the poll with Pacific Lutheran receiving the other two votes.
Returning for the Loggers is first team All-American Jackie Harvey, who was also the NWC Player of the Year as a junior and led the Loggers to a 22-6 overall record and a 13-3 mark in Northwest Conference matches. She pounded down 389 kills for an average of 3.81 kills per set while also averaging 4.06 digs per set. She was one of four Loggers with at least 400 digs and led the team in kills while hitting .206.
Marissa Florant is another outside hitter that had one of her best seasons to date. She returns for her senior year after tallying 277 kills and 430 digs in 2012. Florant's 4.22 digs per set ranked second on the team as did her 2.72 kills per set.
With Florant and Harvey combining for 844 digs as outside hitters, the Loggers were the third-best digging team in the country last season.
Junior libero Christina Chun was a Second Team All-NWC selection after averaging 5.3 digs per set and recording 530 digs for the season – the third-most in Logger history.
Chun is completely recovered from the injury she suffered in the quarterfinal match against Calvin and is again ready to lead one of the stingiest defenses in the country. Senior Karly Edwards also returns to the back row after picking up 248 digs last year.
No. 10 Cal Lutheran returns a solid core of 11 student-athletes, including a pair of Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) players of the year and the 2012 SCIAC Freshman of the Year, while adding six freshman and one transfer. Looking for their fourth consecutive SCIAC title, head coach Kellee Roesel enters her eighth year at the helm excited about the prospect of adding to her Cal Lutheran record 170 coaching victories.
Kylie McLogan was a true leader last season, finishing the year with a school single-season record 471 kills as she guided the Regals to an appearance in the championship final of the 2012 NCAA Division III West Regionals. Additionally, she finished with 42 total blocks, 380 digs and 37 aces in her sophomore season.
Last season, Allie Eason stepped in and made an immediate impact as an outside hitter earning her SCIAC Freshman of the Year honors. She finished second to McLogan with both 316 kills and 35 aces and was third in digs with 323.
The experience of that trio as well as the entire returning unit and the strong incoming class leave the Regals in a prime position to continue their successful output from the last three seasons that have produced SCIAC titles and NCAA postseason appearances.
“It is hard to say who will make the biggest impact coming into the season,” Roesel said. “They all have a chance to compete for playing time and give us a lot of depth.”