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Women's Volleyball 2016 Season Preview

Women's Volleyball 2016 Season Preview

9/1/2016 — Penn State Altoona women’s volleyball has qualified for the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference’s postseason tournament for 16 consecutive seasons, dating back to the program’s third year of existence in 2000. Head coach Phil Peterman has good reason to believe that his team will extend that streak to 17 seasons this fall.

As has been the case for much of the program’s recent history, the Penn State Altoona women’s volleyball team will feature a strong group of returners that provide a foundation for the team, while talented first-year players round out the roster and earn their way into the lineup. It has been a formula for success for the Lady Lions, and Peterman expects that success to continue this fall.

"I expect my team to be at the top of the AMCC each and every year," said Peterman, who is heading into his ninth year at the helm of the women’s volleyball program. "We are hoping to hoist the championship at the end of this season and return to the NCAA Tournament."

Helping Peterman’s team make a run at its third AMCC title will be several key returners. Senior libero Emily Baker (Lewisberry, PA/Red Land), the anchor of her team’s defense, was second in the AMCC in digs per set (5.24) last season, as well as fourth in total digs (503). Sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Bristol (Troy, PA/Troy) emerged as a weapon on the outside for her team last year, ranking 16th in the conference in kills per set (1.99), 17th in total kills (177), and 18th in hitting percentage (.198). Sophomore right side Logan Reedy (Lebanon, PA/Cedar Crest) displayed a solid presence at the net, finishing 14th in the AMCC in solo blocks (13) and 23rd in total blocks (34).

"Baker is doing an outstanding job taking a lead role vocally on the court. She is commanding the defense and anchoring our serve receive. She wants the ball all the time and is not letting anything hit the ground," Peterman said. "Bristol brings a powerful swing and serve to the court, and she is also passing the ball extremely well at this point of the season. Reedy is putting up a huge block on the right side and bringing a deadly swing to the court, and we will also be leaning on her to shut down the opposing team’s best hitter at the outside position."

Peterman points to Josie Stovall (Palmyra, PA/Palmyra), Alanna Caffrey (Staten Island, NY/Susan E. Wagner), Lauren Diller (Chambersburg, PA/Chambersburg), Emily Bryan (Waynesboro, PA/Waynesboro), and Gracie Roberts (Apex, NC/Apex) as newcomers he believes can have an immediate positive impact for his team from the get-go this season.

"I expect Josie, Alanna, and Lauren to all make major contributions in the front row, both hitting and blocking," he stated. "I also expect Emily and Gracie to play an important role setting and running our team’s high-powered and quick offense."

The chemistry and combination of the Lady Lions’ returners and newcomers will be important to replace a few significant losses from the offseason, including outside hitters Becky Britton and Amanda Hammer, both of whom graduated after exceptional four-year careers on the court at Penn State Altoona. Peterman is adamant, however, that his current group is up to the challenge of stepping in to the lineup and producing successful results.

"Britton and Hammer were outstanding players for four years and will be extremely hard to replace. However, this might be one of my most talented groups of recruits and transfers," Peterman said. "I just hope they all choose to put forth the same effort that Becky and Amanda did in trying to reach their full potential."

To ready his team for AMCC play, Peterman often likes to load his regular season schedule with challenging matches against strong non-conference opponents. The 2016 schedule is no different, as the Lady Lions will face a tough non-conference lineup at the season-opening Gettysburg College Battlefield Classic on September 2-3 and later at the Lebanon Valley College Dutchmen Quad on September 9-10. Other solid non-conference opponents that Penn State Altoona is slated to face this fall include Frostburg State University, Grove City College, and Susquehanna University.

"I expect our non-conference dates to impact our new players the most by teaching them humility and giving them the determination they will need to become the top team in the AMCC," said Peterman. "It will take time for them to get accustomed to the pace of the college game. However, I hope they learn from the initial lumps that they may take and that those experiences inspire them to start dishing out the lumps by the end of the season."

After the Lady Lions’ first two home matches of the season on Tuesday, September 20 against Penn State Harrisburg at 7:00 p.m. and Thursday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m. against Grove City, the team ventures into its AMCC schedule with matches against D’Youville College and Pitt-Bradford on Saturday, September 24 at Mount Aloysius College. Later, Penn State Altoona will host AMCC foes Franciscan University, La Roche College, Pitt-Greensburg, and Medaille College, while hitting the road to play conference matches at Penn State Behrend, Mount Aloysius, and Hilbert College.

Last season, Penn State Altoona went 14-13 overall and 7-2 in the AMCC, sharing the conference’s regular season crown with Medaille. But the Lady Lions were eventually edged 3-2 in the semifinal round of the AMCC Tournament by the eventual champions, Franciscan. This summer, Penn State Altoona was voted second in the annual preseason coaches poll, and Peterman hopes that his players are motivated to justify their high ranking in the poll by producing a championship-caliber season.

"The past two seasons, our playoff run was ended by a talented Franciscan team in the fifth set. Both years, they went on to win the AMCC championship," said Peterman. "We think it’s our turn to get back on top of this heated rivalry."

Photo: Penn State Altoona senior libero Emily Baker will anchor the Lady Lions' defense this fall.

TAGS: women's volleyball