2003 volleyball preview
Beavers look to make headlines on court
Wakefield returns 12 players for 2003
By Ben Risinger
Sports Information Director
Coming off of the 2002 season, coach Sara Wakefield wasn't quite sure what to expect. Having only one senior last year and a good core of underclassmen, the team finished 10-26 overall and 2-5 in the Heartland Conference. The elements are there, the players are back, now its time for the 2003 Beavers to rise to the occasion.
"Last season I felt like we were very young," Wakefield said. "We would battle with teams during the whole game and then at the end they would just pull away from us. I think that we didn't have enough playing experience to finish games off."
The 2-5 HCAC record tied Bluffton for fifth place in the conference with Hanover. Since the HCAC was founded in 1998, the Beavers own a 15-17 conference record giving them the fourth-highest win total in the HCAC.
Wakefield will enter her fifth season this year, with things looking much better for the Beavers. Returning the core of her team and seeing a couple of new faces, things are definitely on the upswing. With a very good practice season under their belts also, Wakefield is very optimistic that this will be the year that things definitely pull around.
"The team is motivated, they have put in the time, they were at open gyms, and we have some good key freshmen coming in," Wakefield said. "They have the experience now, they're not young anymore. The senior class has been with me for four years and they know what I expect. Now is the time to do it. This is it - they all know that. They have a common purpose, and they're not just playing for fun. We want to improve our record."
Last year's lone senior Janelle Beck graduated, leaving five returning starters for 2003, along with a strong team to help backup at anytime. This will be the first season that Bluffton does not field an entirely separate junior varsity squad. This will give the younger players more varsity experience, and provide the needed bodies to play any position at anytime.
Seniors Jenae Meck (Archbold/Pettisville) and co-captain Erin Cooper (Wooster/Wooster) return to lead the Beavers. Cooper played in all but three games last year posting 307 digs and 26 aces on the year, according to Wakefield is a strong all-around player and court leader. Meck posted 55 blocks and 149 kills in 2002. "Meck is a solid blocker who is also very smart offensively," Wakefield said.
Junior co-captain Courtney Tisher (Rittman/Rittman) returns to play middle hitter. Tisher led Bluffton with 312 kills in 2002 along with 37 aces and 101 total blocks. "Courtney is one of our biggest offensive threats this year," Wakefield said. Juniors Jill Rothe (Wapakoneta/St. Mary's) and Erin Kreim (New Washington/Buckeye Central) will be solid returnees for Bluffton. Rothe posted 145 kills with Kreim posting 260 kills (third on team with kills in '02).
Junior Kelly Kettinger (Oregon/Clay) played the new defensive libero position last season but had to split playing time with last year's lone senior Janelle Beck. This year, Kettinger will lead the defense and spend most of her time in the back row. Second year player Karah Weldy (Archbold/Archbold) will return to help with the defensive effort. Weldy ended the 2002 campaign with a team and HCAC high 76 aces, which is the seventh highest ace total in a season at Bluffton.
Starting their second seasons, the sophomores are looking to make headlines for Bluffton. Keri Kuhlman (Shelby/Shelby) posted 262 kills as a freshman at middle hitter. The total was second on the team and a new record at Bluffton for kills by a freshman. Sophomore setter Leslie Overmyer (Payne/Wayne Trace) had 250 digs and 52 aces last season. Stephanie Pollock (Delaware/Buckeye Valley) saw action on both the JV and varsity squad as a freshman as both setter and outside hitter. Danielle Siegel (West Unity/Hilltop) and Sarah Kirkton (Goshen, Ind./Goshen) both saw playing time on the JV team last season.
This season will mark the first season for junior Abby Monnin (Fort Loramie/Fort Loramie). Sophomore transfer Ashley Butler (Wakeman/Western Reserve) and freshmen Brittany Shultz (Hudson, Ind./Prairie Heights), Sarah Holmes (Mansfield/Madison Comprehensive), Emily Wudi (Wauseon/Wauseson), Jamie Shores (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan), and Katie Moore (Bucyrus/Wynford) round off the rest of new faces for 2003.
"I expect my freshman to be contributors this year, not just sit on the sidelines," Wakefield said. "They are a very talented group of players who know how to win."