Lake Erie College volleyball will look to make a strong first impression in the GLIAC with an experienced squad which has six of its top seven starters back from a year ago as well as a strong freshmen class.
"We have quite a bit of experience coming back," said ninth-year head coach Gary VanCauwenberge. "We're going to be more mature and should get the job done more consistently."
That experience starts at the setter position, where juniors Lauren Bogatay (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) and Krista O'Connor (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton) both return after playing in every match a year ago. O'Conner and Bogatay were first and second on the team in assists with 534 and 399, respectively last season.
"They're not only quick with their feet but with their minds as far as setting up our offense," said VanCauwenberge.
Boagatay and O'Connor are not only linked by position but also their spot as team co-captains, a role they will share for the second straight season.
"They did a great job for us last year and worked well with the players and the coaches," VanCauwenberge explained. "I like having our setters as captains because they are kind of the quarterback on the court and we like to have them be in a leadership position off the court as well."
The defense will likely be anchored by senior Lauren Johnson (Wellington, Ohio/Keystone), who was hampered with injuries last season, along with sophomore Paige Baldauf (Marion, Ohio/Marion Pleasant), who also plays libero.
The Storm frontline looks to be strong again in 2010 as junior right side Michelle Naab (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton), sophomore outside hitter Mary Walter (Solon, Ohio/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin) and sophomore middle hitter Nicole Kunar (Northfield Center, Ohio/Nordonia) all return. The front combined to average 2.11 blocks per game in 2009 (44th in NCAA Division II) and Walter let the squad with 266 kills. Walter also averaged .66 aces per set (81 total) which ranked 12th in DII.
"We have some big time hitters coming back," said VanCauwenberge about a league that sent six teams to the postseason last fall. "They all get up pretty high and hit the ball pretty hard and Mary brings a big time serve."
Adding to the Lake Erie attack will be three freshmen - middle hitter Liz Whiddon (Saline, Mich./Saline), right side Molly Richardson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) and outsider hitter Jamie Hoppe (Green Springs, Ohio/Clyde) - who are likely to receive considerable playing time and are in the mix for starting spots.
While the Storm expect to be improved on the court, gaining ground in the standings may prove tough as Lake Erie enters its first season as a member of the GLIAC, one of the top volleyball conferences in Division II.
"Being in a new conference- an extremely strong conference - expectations for this season as far as winning goes is going to be tough," explained VanCauwenberge. "I want to be competitive and go into every match knowing if we play our best we'll have a chance to win."
Lake Erie opens the season Sept. 3 with four matches at the Davis and Elkins Senator Spikefest in Elkins W. Va. They then play six straight true road matches before their home opener on Friday, Sept. 24 against Tiffin University at 7:00 p.m.