OXFORD, Ohio – Honoring its history, the Miami volleyball program is committed to maintaining a highly competitive culture while demonstrating leadership, pride, respect and integrity on the court, in the classroom and in the community.
This is the mission statement the Miami University volleyball team keeps in mind everyday as it prepares for the 2012 season. In her 29th season, Head Coach Carolyn Condit – who is only one win shy of becoming the first Miami coach of any sport to win 500 at the school and two wins short of winning 600 for her career – returns nine letterwinners from a team that finished 16-16 a season ago. With such experience returning, the RedHawks have the goal of returning to the top of the Mid-American Conference.
“Together we want to always uphold a strong, competitive style of play while striving for greatness,” said Condit. “Heart and passion will define us as competitors and we want to nurture a climate that creates strong individual and team leadership. We also continue to maintain our solid tradition of keeping our academic work the number one priority.”
Miami has several goals for the 2012 season. In addition to earning the MAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, the RedHawks want to compete for the East Division and overall regular-season MAC titles. They plan to do this by significantly improving in every statistical category over the 2011 season, which would have a positive impact on raising the team’s RPI. Finally, the ‘Hawks want to show the community what a great spectator sport volleyball is, while honoring fans and alumnae with another winning season.
After the graduation of the First-Team All-MAC selection Cassie Farrell last season, the middle will look a little different for Miami in 2012. Fortunately for the RedHawks, they have four talented players returning in senior Christina Menche (Hamilton, Ohio), junior Kayleigh Cox (Freeburg, Ill.), sophomore Chelsea Visk (Salem, Wis.) and redshirt freshman Jenny Ingle (Ludlow Falls, Ohio) all looking forward to taking advantage of the increase in playing time.
“I believe our middles will be the reason why we succeed this year,” said Condit. “We have the setters who know how and when to use them. They simply need to show progress each and every day, through preseason and beyond in their decision-making and overall skill performance.”
With four talented RedHawks competing for two starting roles, Condit believes that whoever emerges will be on their way to having a breakout year. The most experienced returning middle is Cox; she averaged over a kill per set as a reserve middle hitter last season.
“Kayleigh’s court presence is more obvious and she is taking on more of a leadership role,” said Condit. She is emerging as one of our best blockers and is beginning to show the power and shot versatility that the team needs from her.”
Visk gained valuable experience as a freshman in 2011; she appeared in 22 matches, starting eight. She recorded 69 kills on 165 attempts, hitting .261. According to Condit, the sky is the limit on Visk’s potential.
“Chelsea is a power hitter and a strong, physical blocker,” Condit said. “She works extremely hard and took advantage of playing time in her first season to increase her game understanding. There is no telling how far she will take her game as a sophomore.
At 6-foot-5, Ingle is the tallest player in the history of the Miami volleyball program. In order to gain experience she redshirted last season, which gave her the opportunity to learn the speed and techniques of the college game while retaining all four years of her eligibility. After the year of growth, she is ready to show what she has learned on the court.
“Jenny is a special athlete who raises the bar when it comes to one’s work ethic in a redshirt year,” said Condit. “She will be a dominant blocker in the conference as a freshman and is working hard to improve her attacking and total transition game. She is definitely an athlete worth watching!”
Menche is one of Miami’s most experienced returning players. She spent the last three seasons mostly as an outside hitter while also contributing in her junior year as a middle. Menche earned 161 kills on 403 attempts earning an attack percentage of .258 in this secondary role. While she will continue to play the outside, Coach Condit says that Menche will be relied on more in the middle as well.
“Christina brings a good dose of experience and hard work to our middle game,” said Condit. “She is our quickest middle who is blocking well and connecting with our setters. Her versatility is challenging to opposing blockers. We will use her on the outside and middle as this will present unwanted challenges for our opponents.”
The setter is the quarterback for the offense, and along with the liberos, features the most returning experience. Senior Amy Kendall (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) and sophomore Meg Riley (St. Louis, Mo.) will once again share the setting duties for the Red and White.
“Each of our setters has her own style of performing and they compete hard for every point. I will play them in the role that has the most influence on winning,” explained Condit. “They play the game confidently – and fans will enjoy watching their great connections with all hitters, using a variety of tempos.”
Kendall comes into the season only 183 assists short of becoming the 10th setter in Miami history to crack the 2,000-assist mark. In addition to her setting, she has become a solid defensive player, averaging 1.63 digs per set as a junior in 2011.
“Amy enters her senior season with an extra dose of experience from her time competing in Europe this summer,” said Condit. “She loves the game and plays like it! She has emerged as a stronger blocker, is one of the team’s best servers and continues to make every ball hittable for her attackers regardless of the broken play. Amy will be a difference-maker for our team this fall due to her decision making, and ability to spread the net and reverse the flow with accuracy.”
Riley had a successful freshmen season in 2011. She became a six-rotation player, serving as an outside hitter for Kendall, while seamlessly transitioning to setter as needed.
“As a sophomore, Meg returns with the ability of neutralizing opposing blocking schemes, spreading the net, and has the knack of providing her hitters the one-on-one situation,” commented Condit. “She performs on sharp instincts and, as a result, scores points and knows how to win. Her calm demeanor, when combined with her keen focus, is relied upon by her teammates at critical moments. In one short year her game intelligence has expanded, which noticeably allows her to maximize our team’s offensive opportunities.”
After two key outside hitters graduated, Coach Condit has declared all outside hitting positions to be open. Six different players will be competing for playing time on the outside, including senior Lisa Treadway (Dayton, Ohio), junior Madison Dodd (Waterloo, Ill.), redshirt freshman Sarah Chaney (Middletown, Ohio) and freshman Annie Reiswig (Truckee, Calif.). They will be joined at times by Riley and Menche, both of whom are capable outside hitters.
“We have made significant strides forward in our outside hitter training, and this points to better scoring and improved statistics in the matches ahead,” said Condit.
The veteran of the group, Treadway had the most kills in 2011 of any returning player with 181. A six-rotation player known for aggressive backcourt performances, she enters the year with 979 career digs, needing only 21 more to become the 10th non-libero in school history to crack the 1,000-dig mark.
“Lisa brings senior ‘game sense’ to the court and is one of the team’s strongest attackers,” said Condit. “Also a talented passer and total ball control player, she is often the glue that holds the team together. Lisa has great vision and instincts, which allow her to block smart and surprise opponents with a variety of shots. Her leadership and need to excel will help drive our team to the top of the conference.”
If preseason is any indication, Dodd could be a breakout player for the RedHawks this season. Her improved physical conditioning and game knowledge has allowed her to show frequent flashes of brilliance. To her credit, she used the spring season to become a more complete volleyball player.
“Madison’s quickness and athleticism make her an effective blocker and hitter who is fun to watch,” said Condit. “She is a valuable six-rotation player with strong passing skills who could become a top scorer in the RedHawk line-up this season. She plays with high energy and has the proven ability to hit from every net zone. The team will look to her for performance and leadership.”
Similar to Ingle, Chaney spent the 2011 season redshirting and gaining valuable training. She is a natural athlete whom Condit believes can really have an impact on the RedHawk outside attack game.
“Sarah is an exceptional athlete and leaper,” commented Condit. “She is about to find out just how good she can be. Through the spring she developed her blocking game and shot selection, and she is a difficult hitter to stop. Sarah is fantastic to coach and has the chance to earn significant playing time.”
The one true freshman on the team is Reiswig. Hailing from California, she is the player from the furthest distance Condit has ever recruited. During preseason practices, she has proven that she was worth the distance traveled to get her.
“Annie is challenging for a starting role,” said Condit. “She has spent the most time as left attacker in high school, and this is the position she will help strengthen for the RedHawks. Annie has broad vision, a strong dose of game intelligence and excellent blocking instincts. She is our newcomer who seems motivated to make a positive difference early, and I believe she will.”
Riley’s impact on the outside can’t be understated. She will often remain in the game to add tremendous presence to the offense. She had a significant impact in this role as a freshman in 2011, and continued it during the spring and during the European trip. She earned an attack percentage of .256 on the spring season against USA and European competition.
“Meg is one of the most versatile athletes to wear a Miami uniform,” said Condit. “She attacks a heavy ball from both pins and possesses the talent to effectively tool any block. She is a quick study and a true team player, ready to fill any role asked of her. Her adaptation to the college game has been quick and her improvement rate as a hitter, significant. She should earn key roles as both setter and hitter.”
Defensively, the RedHawks are in good hands as both liberos from last season return. Junior Madison Hardy (Louisville, Ky.) and sophomore Tori Clifford (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) will be competing hard each week to earn the libero shirt.
“The strength of the libero position lies in the competitive personalities of both Hardy and Clifford along with their different strengths,” said Condit. “What they have in common is their ‘no fear’ mentality in defending the back court.”
Hardy earned the libero jacket in 28 matches last season. She was the team leader with 529 digs, a single-season school record and an average of an impressive 4.72 digs per set. She enters the 2012 season needing 205 digs to reach 1,000 for her career.
“Madison has the opportunity this season to establish herself as one of the top liberos in the conference,” commented Condit. “The college game has taught her a lot in the past two seasons, and her ability to adapt and change to better master the speed of the game could set her apart. I credit her with being our ‘performer’, as she knows how to score, and she anticipates attackers and servers better than anyone I have coached.”
Clifford had a successful freshman season in 2011, earning the libero jacket in three matches while serving as a defensive specialist in numerous others. She averaged 1.74 digs per set in 23 matches played.
“Tori is the quickest player on our team with above-average reaction and anticipation,” said Condit. “Her defensive pursuit and ability to dig well against dominant attackers is the best on the team. In her second season we look for Tori to help stabilize our passing game and become a director in our back court.”
The RedHawks once again take on a challenging schedule as they prepare for MAC competition. They open play at the Thunder Invitational, Aug. 24-25, where they take on IUPUI, Wright State and host Marshall. A more difficult challenge comes the next weekend when Miami heads to Minneapolis for the Diet Coke Classic (Aug. 31-Sept. 1). In addition to playing Albany and LIU Brooklyn – each of whom won their league a season ago – the ‘Hawks take on host 16th-ranked Minnesota.
Miami opens the home schedule with a match against Xavier on Tuesday Sept. 4. That weekend (Sept. 7-8), the RedHawks host their annual Best Western/Sycamore Inn Invitational. This year’s tournament features Indiana State, Chicago State and Temple. Miami completes its early season tournament play at the Hoosier Classic (Sept. 14-15) with matches against Chattanooga, Valparaiso and the host Indiana.
“Miami’s pre-MAC schedule is full of well-coached teams which should provide many challenging opportunities to compete against a variety offenses and defenses,” said Condit. “There is a good mix of RPI ranked teams planned into our schedule – just what we need prior to the start of Mid-American Conference Competition.”
MAC play begins Friday, Sept. 21 when the RedHawks welcome Kent State to Millett Hall. The next night, Miami hosts longtime rival Ohio. Other conference games at home include Northern Illinois (Oct. 6), Toledo (Oct. 19), Ball State (Oct. 20), Akron (Nov. 2), Buffalo (Nov. 3) and Bowling Green (Nov. 8). The MAC road schedule features Buffalo (Sept. 28), Akron (Sept. 29), Bowling Green (Oct. 4), Central Michigan (Oct. 11), Eastern Michigan (Oct. 13), Ohio (Oct. 26), Kent State (Oct. 27) and Western Michigan (Nov. 10).
The MAC Tournament will take place at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, Nov. 16-18. The RedHawks must finish among the top eight teams in the standing in order to qualify for the three-round tournament. Miami finishes the regular season when it hosts Cincinnati on Saturday, Nov. 24.
Our conference RPI has been high, so everyone expects the race for the MAC title to be a tough one,” said Condit. “There is simply no easy match. The teams who shine in consistency and adaptability have the best chance to reign – and Miami is working hard to be one of them.”