ATLANTA, GA August 28, 2013 – College of Charleston will open the 2013 volleyball season with the Georgia Tech Invitational starting this Friday at noon. Charleston will be joining Chattanooga, Florida A&M and host Georgia Tech in the tournament played at Georgia Tech’s O’Keefe Gymnasium.
College of Charleston will face Chattanooga on Friday at noon, followed by a 4:30 match against Florida A&M. After a day off on Saturday, the Cougars will face Georgia Tech on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The weekend marks the first set of matches for every team involved, while CofC volleyball will compete for the first time as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
All three matches will be covered with live stats through Georgia Tech gametracker, as well as live updates on the official CofC Volleyball twitter page (@CofCVolleyball). CofC’s Sunday match with Georgia Tech will be available for viewing on GT’s All-Access page on www.RamblinWreck.com/AllAccess.
Scouting the Opposition
Despite moving to a new conference, CofC’s first opponent of 2013 will be a familiar team in Chattanooga. The Cougars ousted the Mocs in the first round of last season’s SoCon Tournament and hold a 26-9 series record over the Mocs. Chattanooga will be without star libero Paula Passmore who finished second in the NCAA last season in digs. UTC was ranked fifth in the SoCon Preseason Poll with no players picked for the All-SoCon Preseason team.
Florida A&M enters the season as the favorites to win the MEAC South Division, with outside hitter Desire Waller picked as the MEAC Preseason Player of the Year. Waller, who is the two-time reigning MEAC Volleyball Player of the Year, led the MEAC with 4.91 kills per set during her junior season. The senior ranked among the top ten in the conference in hitting percentage (.255), and kills (381). Florida A&M posted a 15-10 record in 2012, going 10-0 in regular season conference play. CofC is 1-0 against the Rattlers all-time, with the only competition coming back in 1995.
Georgia Tech enters the season after a sixth-place finish in ACC play in 2012, posting a 10-10 conference record and a 19-12 overall mark. The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish ninth in the 2013 preseason poll, with middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbs earning preseason All-Conference honors. In 2012, Clark-Bibbs earned ACC All-Freshman team honors after tallying 1.80 kills per set with a total of 117 on the season – fourth-best on the team. She posted the second-most solo blocks on the team with 10 and a 0.88 per game average. The Cougars are 0-3 against GT all-time, with all three matches coming between 1996 and 1998.
Let’s Start the Show
College of Charleston is 11-9 in opening weekends under Coach Kepner in the last six seasons. The Cougars won non-conference tournaments on opening weekend in 2010 and 2007. Georgia Tech represents the sixth BCS-conference school that the Cougars have opened with under Kepner.
In CofC’s last trip to Atlanta in 2011, the Cougars swept a tournament at Georgia State with wins over Harvard, Jacksonville State and Georgia State.
Cougars Bring Championship Ways To CAA
College of Charleston volleyball will begin its first season in the new Colonial Athletic Association in 2013. The Cougars bring a championship pedigree from the Southern Conference where CofC won either the regular season or tournament championship every season dating back to 2001. That 12-year run marks the second-longest streak of its kind in D-I volleyball behind Hawaii. Over those 12 years, CofC has posted a 323-82 (.796) record which ranks eighth in the nation in wins and winning percentage.
College of Charleston has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances including a remarkable run in 2012 that included a first-round win over then-No. 23 Miami (Fla.). It marked the second NCAA win in program history, and the first match victory over a nationally-ranked team.
Charleston Unanimous Pick To Win CAA Title
College of Charleston was a unanimous top pick by the CAA coaches in the 2013 preseason poll. Back in the SoCon, CofC had been picked to win the league’s South Division in five of the last six seasons under head coach Jason Kepner. However, 2013 marked the first time since 2008 that CofC was a unanimous conference pick.
Senior Darcy Dorton was selected as the Preseason CAA Player of the Year, while junior Sloane White joined her on the All-CAA Preseason team. The Cougars were the only program with multiple players represented on the seven-person team.
Expectations Loom Large For Veteran Squad
The Cougars lost just one starter from a 2012 team that finished 45th in the NCAA RPI and boasted an NCAA win over the ACC runner-ups in Miami. No opponent for this season posted a 2012 RPI higher than Charleston’s with Loyola Marymount (48) and Long Beach State (61) coming closest. Towson’s RPI of 75 led all CAA squads while CAA tournament champion Hofstra went 21-14 with an RPI of 150.
Hitters Gunning For Gaudy Numbers
CofC will look to bolster an already powerful group of hitters on both sides in 2013. AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honoree Darcy Dorton returns after a banner season, while right-side dynamo Sloane White also returns. Sophomore Melissa Morello posted a Freshman All-Conference campaign last year and returns even stronger after a productive sand season in the spring.
The Cougars lose depth in graduated outside hitter Kelly Kolich and injured junior Lizzie Theesfeld who will miss the entire season and apply for a medical redshirt after surgery. However, junior transfer Cara Howley comes to Charleston from the University of South Carolina and looks to make an immediate impact on the right side after ranking 11th in the SEC last year with a .294 hitting percentage. Junior Catey Warren and sophomore Kari Fidelholtz will also provide depth and experience on the outside.
Last year, Dorton set a new program high for kills in the rally scoring era as she tallied 529 daggers, good for 4.20/set. She ranked 41st in the nation in kills/set and 54th with 4.58 points per set after averaging 2.83 digs and tallying 49 total blocks. She set a new program record for kills in an NCAA match as she put down 27 to lead the Cougars over the Hurricanes.
White was second team All-Conference last season and earned MVP honors in the SoCon Tournament. She led the team with a .323 hitting percentage and finished with 2.94 kills per set. Her patented accuracy and consistency made her the go-to in late match situations with the winning kills in the SoCon Tourney final and the NCAA Tournament first-round, all in the fifth set.
Despite not starting until the third weekend of the season, Morello emerged as a freshman sensation last season, averaging 2.43 kills/set and 2.26 digs per set to finish with seven double-doubles. She earned Freshman All-Conference honors and hit .500 with 12 kills in a huge road sweep at Georgia Southern that vaulted CofC in the early conference schedule.
Middle Blockers Shoring Up Net Play
College of Charleston returns senior middle blockers Emily Neideffer and Kerstin Koehler, who both sported breakout seasons in 2012. Koehler overcame several seasons of nagging injury to start all 34 matches and lead the team with 105 blocks (0.85 per set). She hit .306 on the season, including .336 against SoCon competition which ranked second in the league.
Neideffer broke out in a big way after her All-Tournament performance at Kansas where she hit .415 in three matches against Big 12 and Pac 10 competition. Neideffer finished the season ranked fourth on the team with 244 kills (2.03/set), hitting .270 as a whole. She tallied 90 blocks, and stepped up big in the SoCon Tournament with a career-best performance against Samford, notching 15 kills and hitting .591.
Returning sophomore Grace Rebarchak looks to improve from her freshman campaign and add depth in the middle, while new freshman Maddie Hills brings athleticism and length from a decorated high school career in Toronto, Canada.
Experience Sets Up Setters Nicely
Coach Kepner will welcome redshirt-junior Kallie McKown back to the active roster after the Salt Lake City, Utah, native sat out most of 2012 with a leg injury. McKown and last year’s starting setter Taeler Davis have both seen starting action in the past two seasons and give the Cougars ample experience in the setter role in 2013.
Davis averaged 10.95 assists per set last season and earned a spot on the SoCon All-Tournament team. Her career high in assists (63) came in first-round tournament play against Chattanooga.
Freshman Lexi Rhein comes in to provide depth at setter this season, and work hard to be the setter of the future. She boasts All-American accolades for her club play with Synergy, and was first team All-District for her final three years of high school.
Defense Wins Championships
The Cougar backline will have a different look in 2013 as Emily Shelton departs from her libero position after a prolific career in which she finished second all-time in school history for digs. Junior Andi Zbojniewicz steps in to wear the libero jersey after two solid seasons at defensive specialist. She has averaged 2.07 digs per set over the course of her career, and will emerge as the captain of the backline in 2013.
Freshman Ashley Watson should see some playing time early in a defensive specialist role in certain rotations. Watson was an All-District first teamer out of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.