Returning the majority of the 2017 team, the Case Western Reserve University volleyball team is excited to continue to grow and progress in the 2018 season.
This fall, a total of 17 players return, including all six from last year's starting rotation. The roster also receives an infusion of talent with the addition of five newcomers.
Guided by 17th-year Head Coach Karen Farrell, the Spartans have posted 20 victories in seven of the last 10 seasons. Last season, the team finished the year with a 19-12 overall record, while posting a 4-3 mark in the University Athletic Association and finishing in fifth place at the UAA Championships.
CWRU opened last season with an 11-6 record as they entered UAA competition at the end of September. The first UAA Round Robin, hosted by the Spartans, featured a season highlight in the opening match with a win over then 10th-ranked Carnegie Mellon University. CWRU defeated the Tartans in four sets 26-24, 25-19, 11-25 and 25-16.
"Last year we were incorporating a lot of young players into the rotation and it took a while to gain some team confidence," said Farrell. "This year we return a very strong core from our starting rotation and with an additional year of experience and training, we expect to start the season at a much higher level."
Expected to lead the roster is junior outside hitter Brianna Lemon, who earned All-UAA First Team recognition, as well as All-UAA Second Team honoree junior Haley Sims and All-UAA Honorable Mention sophomore Katie Kaminski.
Lemon became the first Spartan since Haley Kauffman in 2015 to be named to the All-UAA First Team. She finished the regular season with a .220 hitting percentage, and led the team with 339 kills (3.14 per set) and 353 digs (3.27 per set). Lemon's 3.14 kills per set ranked fifth among all University Athletic Association players last year. She also gathered 29 total blocks and 19 service aces throughout the season.
Sims finished the regular season with a .282 hitting percentage and led the team with 80 total blocks, including 22 solo blocks. She finished second on the team with 247 kills and 2.31 kills per set. Kaminski led the Spartans with a .284 hitting percentage last season, which puts her at 10th in school history for attack percentage in a single-season. She also added 42 digs and 17 service aces during the season.
Finishing second on the team with 252 digs, Bondelid averaged 2.83 digs per set last season. Ellis directed the attack and tallied 895 assists (7.99 per set). Her 7.99 assists per set ranked second among all UAA players.
At the net, King finished third on the team with 241 kills (2.25 per set) and Jaskoviak finished fifth with a 161 kills (1.61 per set).
"We have two of the strongest outside hitters in the UAA in Lemon and King and two outstanding middle blockers in Sims and Kaminski returning to lead our attack," said Farrell. "Our lineup is incredibly balanced and athletic."
In addition to the seven players back from last year's rotation, the team features an additional two seniors, a junior and seven sophomores that will look for increased court time in 2018. Defensive specialists Noel Jeansonne and Emily Wolfenbarger are back for their fourth seasons and middle hitter Samantha Rodriguez is back for her third season, while defensive specialist Alara Sutcu, right-side hitters Jana Giaquinto and Fabiola Torres, middle hitter Marlee Dingle, outside hitter Bailey Hagedorn and setters Jiayi Shen and Krystal Wang return for their second year in the program.
Adding additional height to the Spartans attack will be freshmen middle hitter Maggie Sereika, outside hitter Lauren Carmon, and right-side hitters Kassie Blank and Natalie Rothrock. Sophomore setter Jordyn Harberts will bring depth to the backline.
"We have a lot of depth in every position and players are going to need to execute at a high level in every position to earn playing opportunities," 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 will be formidable as there were very few seniors on any team last season so everyone is returning an experienced and battle tested squad," said Farrell. "We open the season with a strong tournament so we will see right away how we compare to some of the toughest teams in the region. The schedule is always challenging so that we feel well-prepared for conference play."
The Spartans open up with four matches in two days at the Ohio Northern Tournament in Ada on August 31-September 1, then host the CWRU Invitational on September 7-8 at Horsburgh Gymnasium. Three dual matches and two more weekend tournaments follow before the Spartans travel to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts for the first of two UAA Round Robins on September 29-30. UAA Round Robin #2 is two weeks later on October 13-14 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Carnegie Mellon University, while the UAA Championship Tournament is set for November 2-3 in Rochester, New York at the University of Rochester.