Releases

For Immediate Release: August 6, 2004
Contact: David O'Brian (dobrian@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6478

2004 Volleyball Preview: Bearcats look to continue progress made last season


After posting its first winning season since moving up to the NCAA Division level three years ago, the Binghamton volleyball team is looking to build upon the 2003 season and move up in the America East Conference standings. With a deeper and more versatile squad than a year ago, head coach Glenn Kiriyama believes that the Bearcats have the potential to take another step forward this season.

" Our team is more versatile than it was last year," Kiriyama said. "We will be able to switch people around which we have not been able to do in the past. Even though we lost a few starters we have more depth this season if we are at full strength."

OUTSIDE HITTERS

Senior Michele Heck, a fourth-year starter, is the top returnee at this position. Heading into her senior season, she ranks first all-time in school history with 3.29 kills per game and third with 1,040 kills.

"Michelle will get a majority of the sets and get a lot of swings this year," Kiriyama said. "She had a great spring and is hitting well and aggressive. She works hard in practice and will be an integral part of our defense as well as our offense."

Sophomore Kaitlyn Robertson appeared in 26 matches last season but following a year of improvement, could step into a starting role this year.

"Kaitlyn has come a long way in a year," Kiriyama said. "Her hitting has improved and she has been getting a lot of reps in practices which have helped her consistency."

Freshman Kathleen Schauer, who arrives from Littleton, Colorado, is the top newcomer at outside hitter. In addition to playing for the nationally-ranked Front Range Volleyball Club, she was twice named honorable-mention all-state.

"Kathleen will definitely push for playing time right away," Kiriyama said. "She played for an elite club team and brings a lot of experience to our team."

Another freshman who joins the outside hitters is Kristin Stephens, who hails from Melville, N.Y. Named all-county while playing for Half Hollow Hills East High School, she also played four years with the Long Island Power Club.
"Kristin is a very versatile player," Kiriyama said. "She has experience at the middle and outside positions but will probably be utilized outside. She will be a great benefit to our offense."

Sophomores Emily Collins rounds out the group of outside hitters.

SETTERS

Sophomore Ashley Meffert, who was named to the America East All-Rookie Team last season, is looking to follow up on an impressive first year as the starting setter. She set the school record with 11.25 assists per game, a figure that ranked third in the America East Conference.

"Ashley had a good freshman campaign," Kiriyama said. "She has continued to work on her set location and getting to the ball. This season, we are looking for her to become more of a team leader and to be more aggressive with her sets."

Senior Jen Smith, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early last season, is looking to get back in the form that made her the teams leading hitter before getting hurt. She is capable of playing either the setter or right side positions.

"Jen has been trying to get back in the swing of things," Kiriyama said. "She was our most effective player last season before she got hurt."

MIDDLE BLOCKERS

Perhaps the strongest position on the team is at middle blocker. Senior Anne Crocus, a two-time all-conference selection heads up this group. Her 1.50 blocks per game led the team and ranked 15th in the nation. In addition, Crocus set the single-season school record with a .360 attack percentage.

"Anne is a Player of the Year candidate in the conference," Kiriyama said. "She's a very motivated player who wants to get better. She is definitely the hardest worker on the team and motivates her teammates to work hard as well."

The other returnee at middle blocker is sophomore Megan Hoag, who made the most of her freshman season. She ranked fourth on the team with 215 kills (2.17 per game), second with 234 digs (2.36 per game) and third with 75 total blocks.

"Megan has done a solid job since she's come here," Kiriyama said. "She is among our most improved players from last year. We have given her a lot of reps in the middle and she has a chance to do well in this conference."

Joining Crocus and Hoag is freshman Jacki Kane, a 6-2 middle blocker from Centennial, Colorado. She was second in the state in blocks as a high school senior at Grandview High School and was named honorable mention all-state. She too played for the Front Range Volleyball Club.

"Like Kathleen, Jacki comes from a very good club team so she has had elite training," Kiriyama said. "She has a good work ethic and is looking to compete right away."

DEFENSIVE SPECIALIST/ LIBERO

Having lost Nicole Savin and Shannon Kelly to graduation, the Bearcats will look to a pair of freshman to fill those positions. In Amanda Hubbard and Megan Phillips, however, Kiriyama feels he has the right players.

Hubbard was named all-state as both a junior and senior at Horesheads High School. She has also played with the Southern Tier Volleyball Club. Phillips is from nearby Windsor High School and was named all-state three times by the New York State Sports Writers.

"Since we graduated both of our defensive players, well need to ask Amanda and Megan to come in and contribute right away," Kiriyama said. "Both of them are pretty aggressive players and will do well in the back row."

SCHEDULE

Before heading into the America East Conference schedule, the Bearcats will take part in five tournaments, including one at home, to prepare for the 14 conference matches. Binghamton travels to tournaments at Canisius, Villanova, George Washington and St. Francis (Pa.). In addition, the Bearcats also have non-conference matches against Hofstra, Syracuse and Siena.

In the America East Conference, Northeastern, New Hampshire, Stony Brook and Albany are the four teams that qualified for the conference tournament. Last season, Binghamton finished a distant fifth in the conference standings.

" We have a tough non-conference schedule this season, especially with the Villanova and George Washington Tournaments," Kiriyama said. "Still, that will help because the power ranking of our conference has gone up the last three years. Every team in the conference, including us, has improved so the tougher the competition we have at the start of the season, the better prepared we'll be when its time to play the conference matches."

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