Story Courtesy of Miami Media Relations
The Miami RedHawks are a younger team with only two seniors on the roster in 2010. Despite the youth movement, expectations remain high for a team that has reached the MAC semifinals for three consecutive seasons. Head coach Carolyn Condit, entering her 27th season, believes in the abilities of her returning athletes and has no doubt that lessons learned last season will help this year's squad find greater success.
Whenever four starting seniors achieve the ultimate goal of earning a Miami degree, the loss on the court is significant. What is more significant however, is how all of the returning athletes have stepped up in their training, leadership and degree of competing since the spring to insure that ground is not lost --- only gained.
Miami's roster shows solid depth in all positions - and especially on defense and in the setting role.
"We will not miss a step in advancing our offense with the talent that our setters Michelle and Amy bring to the game," says Condit. "Defense is still the piece of our game on which we place the greatest emphasis. With more hard work, improvement in our blocking and digging will be noticed by both our fans and opponents alike."
While only one athlete can wear the libero shirt each game, having several who specialize and play aggressive defense is a must for every successful team. While last season the team played its youngest backcourt in years, this season Miami will benefit from experience gained by junior Colleen Loftus, sophomore Lisa Treadway, and redshirt freshman Jackie Lang.
"We have a strong core of back row specialists who are full of game intelligence," says Condit. "Our passing and digging control has significantly improved, which should complement our offense with a higher team attack and kill percentage."
Loftus emerged as the team's top passer last year as a sophomore and has shown real progress defensively through the spring season.
"Colleen has grown tremendously in her game understanding and has developed both her foot speed and court movement," Condit reports. "She is one of the strongest members of our team and is capable of coming up with big digs against top hitters. Her experience will benefit our team and help score needed points."
Treadway earned primary libero and passing duties in her first season, leading the team with 408 digs on the year.
"Lisa works hard at her game and loves to compete aggressively," said Condit. "She has increased her range as a defender and continues to improve her touch on the ball as a passer. Lisa is one of our top ball control players and knows how to score points. She has proven to be a strong hitter as well."
Lang is talented in all areas of the back court, but an early season injury last year at the Miami Invitational kept her from putting up impressive numbers. "Jackie used the spring to hone her skills and work her way back into our system," Condit said. "She is a beautiful passer who has a natural touch on the ball and knows how to read angles. Jackie has the ability to inspire with her defensive performances and it is so important to have her on our active roster again."
After Andrea Atteberry earned the starting setter position for the past four years, new talent will be stepping up to lead Miami to a MAC championship. Sophomore Amy Kendall and senior Michelle Mangia will compete for the starting role after seeing limited time in 2009.
No one makes more timely decisions in a match than the setter... combine this with her setting accuracy, block effectiveness and good defense and you have the one person on the court that makes the biggest difference in winning or losing.
Mangia has continued to improve her total game in each of the past three seasons in a support role, but may be ready to take the next step according to Condit.
"Michelle enters her fourth season with three years of solid setter training. It is easy to see her improvement on defense and in her blocking game. She also has expanded her decision making and vision as she develops her personal setting style. I like where her game is going and believe Michelle is ready to contend for the starting role."
In relief of Atteberry, Kendall made five starts in her first season, and in 14 matches recorded 166 assists. Her tall stature, like Mangia's, will add to Miami's blocking success this season. She used the spring season to expand her Division I game knowledge, and the coaching staff saw some promising spring performances from her. The old saying ‘familiarity breeds success' is true in how far Kendall has brought all aspects of her game in one year.
"Amy brings a new level of competitive spirit to our team in this special role," said Condit. "She openly talks about winning championships and wants to lead her teammates there with a very effective offense."
"Amy has improved in every aspect of her game - including transition, defense, blocking and setting accuracy. Her strong release point and accuracy to the antennas provides a deceptive challenge to our opponents, and has allowed our hitters to become more creative and effective -- knowing what to count on."
Miami's middle hitting position remains in good hands. Both returning middles - Michele Metzler and Cassie Farrell have earned experience and success through the years. Newcomer Kayleigh Cox will work hard to add depth to this vital court position.
"Due to the work ethic, athleticism and strong game understanding of our returning middles, I won't be surprised if our hitting and blocking stats shine over last year's," Condit remarks. "Blocking technique has improved, and our setters are working quite well with our middles, who are showing real talent in their connections."
Leading the way for the RedHawk middles is Metzler. A second team All-MAC selection in 2009, the senior was third on the team with 254 kills. She also led the team with 104 blocks, an average of 0.95 per game. Her performances as the team's blocking and offensive leader in 2010 will go a long way toward Miami recapturing the MAC crown.
Michele has established herself in the conference as a player to contend with," said Condit. "Her quick attack and athleticism has caught the attention of opposing coaches and blockers - it is a rare match when she is not double-teamed."
"Michelle's blocking game is as important, if not more so, than her attacking game for our team's success. She is a hard worker and has really shown improvement in the fine points of this challenging skill, which should improve her numbers and help us in the MAC race. As for her hitting game, Michele has brought it to the next level in the past year with improved hand control, power and shot selection. Michelle will be effective around a double block and will open up plenty of net space for her other hitters."
Farrell, a junior, should team up in a starting role with Metzler in the middle. They complement each other quite well with their quickness and easy movement, providing the team a very balanced and effective middle attack. Primarily a substitute in 2009, she recorded 77 kills in 27 matches. She suffered an injury during the spring season, but now recovered Coach Condit sees both her blocking and hitting numbers making a significant difference for the RedHawks.
"Cassie's hard work behind Griffin and Metzler last season is paying off. She has a good head for the game, loves to compete, and always made a difference for the team coming off the bench." Condit continues, "She is earning a starting role due to her amazing quickness, her ability to close the block against great offenses, and her hitting power. Cassie continues to get better in every aspect of the game and is a great teammate."
Providing depth at the middle hitter position will be the freshman Cox. Cox comes from a successful high school program in Freeburg, Illinois and her experience winning two state championships will help her to make a strong transition in the college game.
"Kayleigh is an athlete who brings natural talent and good ball skills to our program," reflects Condit. "She is a good blocker who doesn't realize her potential. Once she acclimates to our style of play and the speed of the game, she will prove valuable in the success of our middle game this season."
A mixture of experience and newcomers will headline the outside and right side hitting positions. Juniors Amy Raseman and Jenn Caylor lead the way with the most experience, joined by junior, Colleen Loftus, sophomore Christina Menche and freshmen, Madison Dodd and Madison Hardy.
Raseman is in her fourth year in the program, having redshirted as a freshman. She is on pace to have a big year after breaking into the line-up in her second season.
"Amy is a very special athlete because of her willingness to work endlessly for what she wants to achieve. This type of hard work has earned her the right to have a great year as a junior, and her talents allow us to use her at either antenna," Condit said. "She is emerging as a power hitter to contend with as Amy knows how to mix it up, keep the defense guessing and score points. Beyond this she provides outstanding leadership to our team on and off the court, and has the game intelligence that her teammates acknowledge and respect."
Regarding Raseman's total game Condit shares: "To her credit, solid ball control and reliable blocking are more significant in Amy's game. She is proof that working hard and smart will transform one's game."
Caylor established herself as an all-around player in 2009, finishing with 103 kills and 269 digs. She earned 20 starts last season as her solid play helped her break into a senior-dominated lineup.
"Jenn is a competitor and is coming into her own as a front line and back court player. She turned out strong performances in the spring and continues to develop her solid block and attack effectiveness," Condit shares, "A middle in high school, Jenn is quite versatile and can side-out as a first or second tempo hitter. I am especially pleased with her development as a passer and defender."
In terms of the ‘extras' Jenn lends to the court, Condit reports: "Jenn is emerging as a leader. Her insightfulness and intelligence equips her with a unique way of directing and helping teammates."
With each season Loftus has increased the number of ways she has contributed to Miami's success. The first two seasons found her on the defensive side of the game, while passing with an impressive efficiency. Last spring she grabbed the opportunity as an outside attacker displaying both power and creativity.
"Colleen has worked to improve her vertical jump -- now boasting one of the highest reaches on our team. She enters her junior season strong and confident, and we are pleased to have her to add to the talent and depth of our outside hitters," says Condit.
Menche will look to earn more playing time and make a personal contribution to her team's winning record in 2010. She served primarily a reserve role in 2009 while building her game intelligence and ball control.
"Christina is one of the finest athletes I have coached," says Condit. "This combined with her strong work ethic and eagerness to see the court, have expectations high for Christina to come into her own this fall. As a blocker she is solid and strong, she presents an excellent platform in the back court and as a hitter Christina is advancing her shot selection and learning to have her way with opposing blockers.
As for what the future holds for Menche, Condit predicts: "The sky is the limit for where Christina will take her game. She is a power hitter who will emerge as one of our team's go-to players, and she will eventually prove her ability to play all six positions."
With the graduation of three outside hitters in Megan Griffin, Maria Leahy and Hallie Hanks, Condit knew the importance of bringing in two talented competitors in Dodd and Hardy who display power, intelligence and game-winning ball control.
A confident player who played all six rotations for her club and high school teams, Dodd could challenge for a starting role in the front or backcourt in her first miami season.
"Madison brings a strong left-handed attack to our team and is crafty in her shot selection. She joins Raseman and Mangia as our third lefty on the floor," says Condit. "She already plays with confidence and it is easy to see how much she loves to compete. Madison's strong build and experience at both the right and left antennae make her a versatile hitter and with time, an effective Division I blocker."
When one experiences a national club title and two state high school championships as an active starter, it is safe to assume they possess a good dose of court leadership and have experience handling the pressures of the game. Condit believes this to be true of Hardy.
"I find Madison to be a unique competitor who knows how to score points. She shows a lot of savvy around the ball on defense and is a natural passer," says Condit. "Once she embraces the height and speed of the college game she could help out in all six positions. As a hitter her shot selection, vision and hand control are excellent, as is her power. She is a natural athlete who has good timing as a blocker and the knack for anticipating the ball."
Schedule and MAC Play
A challenging non-conference schedule has been put together by Coach Condit to help prepare the RedHawks for MAC competition. Miami will participate in four tournaments, including its annual Best Western Sycamore Inn Invitational, where the RedHawks will welcome Indiana, Illinois State and DePaul to Millett Hall. In addition to the Hoosiers, Miami will take on Michigan and Ohio State from the Big Ten, Kentucky from the SEC and Cincinnati and USF from the Big East.
"Our schedule has been developed with two goals in mind," said Condit. "First, we want to experience very strong competition with an opportunity to gain confidence and win. Second, we want the opportunity to play some opponents who have been ranked high in the RPI last year. Those wins that will help improve our RPI and sharpen our competitive edge in every way for a very strong MAC season.
The 16-game MAC schedule begins Sept. 24 at Buffalo. Miami will take on each of their East Division rivals twice, along with single games against the six West Division Opponents. That will culminate with the MAC Tournament Nov. 16-21, with the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game once again taking place in the Seagate Center in Toledo.
"The MAC race has become even more exciting this year due to the quality of the new coaches hired," said Condit. "I believe new coaches inspire their teams and readily upgrade the recruiting aspect of the program. I think this describes the teams at Buffalo and Toledo, and Ball State is also moving in that direction. "The MAC race will be strong again as teams are well coached, and returning coaches continue to upgrade their talent pool and their systems. Although Western and Ohio join Miami in losing a good part of their starting lineup from last season, there is a strong possibility we will each vie for the championship - and I am confident that Miami will be in the thick of this race!"