Returning the majority of the 2018 team, the Case Western Reserve University volleyball team has set high expectations for the 2019 season.
This fall, a total of 17 players return, including all six from last year's rotation. The roster also receives an infusion of talent with the addition of six newcomers.
Guided by 18th-year Head Coach Karen Farrell, the Spartans have posted 20 victories in seven of the last 11 seasons. Last season, the team finished the year with an 18-14 overall record, while posting a 3-4 mark in the University Athletic Association and finishing in seventh place at the UAA Championships.
"Last season was a struggle as we kept losing experienced starters to season-ending injuries," said Farrell. "A result of that situation was that a number of players gained experience in the starting rotation that wouldn't have otherwise. This year we have a large veteran group that has a lot of confidence in themselves and their teammates."
Expected to lead the roster is senior outside hitter Karley King, who was selected to the Google Cloud Academic All-America Second Team and earned All-UAA First Team recognition, as well as All-UAA Honorable Mention honoree junior middle hitter Katie Kaminski.
King became the third Spartan over the past four years to be named to the All-UAA First Team, joining former Spartan Haley Kauffman (2015) and senior Brianna Lemon (2017). She finished the regular season with a .245 hitting percentage, and led the team with 362 kills (3.26 per set). Her 362 kills and 3.26 kills per set ranked third among all University Athletic Association players during the regular season. She also gathered 115 digs and 51 total blocks throughout the season.
Additionally, King is just the fourth player in the history of the volleyball program to earn the Academic All-America honor. She joins former Spartans Carolyn Bogart (2015), Tricia McCutchan (2009, 2010, 2011) and Lindsey Deyer (2000).
Kaminski led the Spartans with a .353 hitting percentage this season, which puts her at second in school history for attack percentage in a single-season. She ranked second on team with 262 kills (2.36 per set) and second with 74 total blocks (including 12 solo). Kaminski also added 122 digs and a team-best 41 service aces during the season.
Also back from last year's rotation is senior middle hitter Haley Sims, senior setter Faith Ellis, senior outside hitter Brianna Lemon, junior setter Jordyn Harberts, junior libero Anna Jaskoviak and sophomore outside hitter Lauren Carmon.
Sims finished third on the team with 159 kills (2.15 per set) and recorded a .288 hitting percentage. She also tallied a team-high 99 total blocks, including 71 block assists. At the net, Carmon and Lemon averaged 1.75 and 3.00 kills per set, respectively. Carmon finished fourth on the team with 149 kills and Lemon finished fifth with 147 kills.
Ellis directed the attack and tallied a team-high 646 assists (5.82 per set). She finished second on the team with 240 digs. Harberts also setup the offense throughout the season, totaling 474 assists (4.43 per set) and 204 digs.
Defensively, Jaskoviak averaged 4.85 digs per set and finished first on the team with 538 digs. Her 4.85 digs per set ranked third among all University Athletic Association players.
"We have four returning All-UAA players in our starting rotation who are motivated and confident," said Farrell. "They will be a threat on every attempt to score, and with their size and athleticism, they will be active blockers and will look to disrupt our opponent's offense. Our setters, Faith and Jordyn have strong connections with our attackers and bring consistency and stability in running the court. Anna anchors the backcourt and we look for her continued leadership as she returns in the libero position."
In addition to the eight players back from last year's rotation, the team features an additional senior, five juniors and three sophomores that will look for increased court time in 2019. Middle hitter Samantha Rodriguez is back for her fourth season, while defensive specialist Alara Sutcu, right-side hitter Jana Giaquinto, middle hitter Marlee Dingle, outside hitter Bailey Hagedorn and setter Krystal Wang are back for their third season. Right-side hitters Kassie Blank and Natalie Rothrock, and middle hitter Maggie Sereika return for their second year in the program.
Adding additional height to the Spartans attack will be freshmen middle hitter Eve Dornback, and outside hitters Gianna Lambert and Meara Reeder. Sophomore setter Brooke Dills, freshman setter Sara Rogers and freshman defensive specialist Ana Campos will bring depth to the backline.
"Our talent runs deep in every position and the challenge will be to maintain team chemistry on the court as we add less experienced players to the rotation," said Farrell.
As usual, the Spartans will play a challenging schedule that features the always tough UAA and several traditional powers throughout the region.
"We are fortunate to play a very challenging schedule that prepares our team well for the intensity of UAA play," said Farrell. "We will need to keep our focus narrow on each match to experience success this season."
The Spartans open up with three matches in two days as they host the Spartans Invitational on August 30-31 at Horsburgh Gymnasium, then host the CWRU Invitational on September 6-7. Two dual matches and one more weekend tournament follow before the Spartans travel to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts for the first of three UAA Round Robins on September 21-22. UAA Round Robin #2 is two weeks later on October at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Two more dual matches follow before the Spartans host the third UAA Round Robin on Sunday, October 20, while the UAA Championship Tournament is set for November 8-9 in Chicago, Illinois at the University of Chicago.