2008 Season Outlook
The University of Southern Indiana volleyball team will take the court in
2008 with aspirations of getting back to the upper-echelons in the Great
Lakes Valley Conference and into the NCAA Division II Tournament for the
first time since 2004.
USI returns five starters from a 2007 squad that qualified for the GLVC Tournament for the ninth consecutive season, posting a record of 15-14 overall, 9-10 in the GLVC.
Among fourth-year Head Coach Leah Mercer’s list of returning players is senior Margaret Buschman.
Buschman, a 6’1” middle blocker, was second on the team a year ago with 2.70 kills per game and 3.22 points per game. She also was the squad’s second-most efficient attacker, racking up a .273 attacking percentage, and was third on the team in blocks per game (0.82).
Mercer will count on Buschman to lead a youthful squad that includes five juniors, two sophomores, and three freshmen.
USI’s junior class includes outside hitter Courtney Bealor, middle blocker Ashley Henricks, right side hitter/setter Kathi Hindman, outside hitter Jaclyn Johnson, and setter Melanie Pund.
Pund figures to have the biggest impact on the Screaming Eagles’ lineup this year as she takes over the fulltime setter duties. In 2007, Pund saw action as a setter, a right side hitter, a defensive specialist, and a libero. She took over the full-time setter duties late in the season, averaging 11.79 assists per game as the team’s starting setter.
Bealor and Hindman will be two of Pund’s top targets in 2008 after solid sophomore campaigns last season. Bealor averaged 2.55 kills and 2.48 digs per game last year, while the left-handed Hindman had break-out performances on the right side, including a 21-kill performance against St. Cloud State.
Henricks continued to be a dominating defensive presence in the middle in 2007, ranking ninth in the GLVC with 1.12 blocks per game. She set a single-season school record as a freshman in 2006 when she racked up 122 block assists.
Sophomore outside hitter Brittani Oliver and sophomore defensive specialist Janae Curnutt will need to become big factors for the Eagles if they are to go deep into the post-season in 2008. Oliver averaged 2.67 kills and 1.51 digs per game during her freshman campaign, while Curnutt, who averaged 2.22 digs per game in 2007, came on strong in the last six matches as she recorded double-figure dig totals in four of those contests.
USI’s freshman class includes setter/defensive specialist Stephanie Berg, defensive specialist Krista Coccaro, and middle blocker/outside hitter Taylor Reed.
Reed earned All-City and All-District honors as a senior at Whitmer High School (Toledo, Ohio) and played for the prestigious 18-1 Toledo Volleyball Club this past spring.
Coccaro made a name for herself in the club ranks where she participated in the Indy Juniors program in high school. She played for the Indiana Volleyball Academy 18’s team this past spring and was a member of Carmel High School’s 2006 sectional championship squad.
Berg, a three-sport athlete at Gibault Catholic High School (Waterloo, Illinois), led her squad in assists and serving percentage while earning All-Area honors as a senior in 2007.
In 2008, the Eagles will waste little time acclimating themselves to tough competition. USI starts the year with defending NCAA II Great Lakes Region champion Grand Valley State University at the “Middle of Everywhere” Classic in Rolla, Missouri.
The Eagles also will play 2007 NCAA II Tournament participant Pittsburg State University during the opening weekend before taking on NCAA II Tournament semifinalist Washburn University the next week in St. Louis, Missouri.
Grand Valley State, which won the national championship in 2005, will be one of two former national champions on the Eagles’ slate. USI hosts former NCAA II champion University of North Alabama September 30.
In addition to a tough non-conference schedule, the Eagles will battle through a tough conference that featured four NCAA II Tournament squads last season, one of which has moved to Division I.
The Eagles begin GLVC play as well as their 10-game home slate September 12 when they host Missouri University of Science and Technology. The Eagles host 2007 NCAA II Tournament participants University of Indianapolis and Northern Kentucky University September 23 and 26, respectively, and make a trip to two-time defending GLVC champions Lewis University October 3.
USI also has home-and-home series with GLVC West Division foes Missouri S&T, Rockhurst University, Drury University, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The Eagles will play GLVC West Division opponent Quincy University at home on October 31 and November 1.
In 2008, all sets will be played to 25 instead of 30, with the fifth and deciding set being played to 15.