Returning the majority of the 2016 team, the Case Western Reserve University volleyball team has set high expectations for the 2017 season.
Guided by 16th-year Head Coach Karen Farrell, the Spartans have posted 20 victories in seven of the last nine seasons. Last season, the team finished the tear with a 21-10 overall record, while posting a 2-5 mark in the University Athletic Association and finishing in sixth place at the UAA Championships.
CWRU opened last season with an 8-0 record, while also claiming the team title at the 18th Annual Marcia French Invite. In the winning streak, the Spartans won four matches by a 3-2 score. Of their 31 matches in 2016, CWRU won eight of those by a score of 3-2.
This fall, a total of 11 players return, including four from the starting rotation. The roster also receives an infusion of talent with the addition of nine newcomers.
"The 2016 season was a roller coaster ride with so many talented but inexperienced players in the rotation," said Farrell. "While we ended up winning 8/10 matches in the fifth set, it was nerve wracking trying to find some stability in our play. A year later we have developed our talent further and we now have some more experienced players in the lineup."
Sims became the second Spartan ever to be named the UAA Rookie of the Year, the first since Natalie Southard eared the recognition in 2011. She finished the regular season with a .284 hitting percentage, which puts her at ninth in school history for attack percentage in a single-season. Sims led the team with 112 total blocks, including 81 block assists which puts her at 10th in school history for block assists in a single season. She finished third on the team with 242 kills and 2.03 kills per set and was named UAA Player of the Week on September 13th.
Bondelid averaged 4.00 digs per set during the 216 season and has averaged 3.60 digs per set during her career which puts her at 10th on the Spartans' all-time list for digs per set in a career. The starting libero in every game during the season, Bondelid led the Spartans with 476 digs. She also recorded a team-high 46 service aces during the season which ties her for eighth on the all-time list for service aces in a single season. Bondelid currently ranks first on the Spartans' all-time list for service aces per set in a career with 0.42.
Finishing third on the team with 232 digs, Wolfenbarger averaged 2.23 digs per set last season.
At the net, Lemon and King averaged 3.36 and 1.86 kills per set, respectively. Lemon finished first on the team with 400 kills and King finished fourth with 186 kills.
In addition to the five players back from last year's rotation, the team features an additional senior, junior and four sophomores that will look for increased court time in 2017. Middle hitter Emma Briggs is back for her fourth season and defensive specialist Noel Jeansonne is back for her third season, while defensive specialists Christine Tamura and Jen Manning, setter Faith Ellis and middle hitter Samantha Rodriguez return for their second year in the program.
Adding additional height to the Spartans attack will be freshmen middle hitter Marlee Dingle, outside hitters Jana Giaquinto, Bailey Hagedorn, Anna Jaskoviak and Katie Kaminski, and right-side hitter Fabiola Torres. Freshman defensive specialist Alara Sutcu, along with freshman setters Jiayi Shen and Krystal Wang will bring depth to the backline.
"We are as deep as we have ever been on the pins and defensively, which will push our players every day in practice to compete for opportunities to demonstrate their level of consistency of execution," said Farrell.
As usual, the Spartans will play a challenging schedule that features the always tough UAA and several traditional powers throughout the region.
"The UAA continues to be a dominant force nationally and we will have to play at the highest level to win conference matches," said Farrell. "We have upped the intensity of our non-conference schedule with some tougher tournaments to better prepare our team for the UAA rigor. We will need to stay focused on each opponent in order to achieve our goals this season."
The Spartans open with four matches in two days at the Ohio Northern Tournament in Ada on September 1-2, then serve as co-hosts of the Marcia French Memorial Tournament on September 8-9 at Horsburgh Gymnasium. Three dual matches and two more weekend tournaments follow before the Spartans host the first of two UAA Round Robins at the Veale Center on September 30-October 1. UAA Round Robin #2 is two weeks later on October 14-15 in Chicago, Illinois at the University of Chicago, while the UAA Championship Tournament is set for November 3-4 in Atlanta, Georgia at Emory University.