Courtesy of Eastern Michigan Athletic Communications
YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) – The Eastern Michigan University women's volleyball team is coming off a season that was filled with ups and downs during 2012. Eastern faced-off with the eventual Mid-American Conference Volleyball Tournament Champions in the opening round at the SPIRE Institute, in Geneva, Ohio, where it was held for the second time. The Eagles fell in straight sets against Bowling Green State University and saw its MAC Championship hopes dashed in the first round for the second-straight season.
With just three seniors on the squad, the Green and White had just enough upperclass leadership to guide them to an 18-15 record, while completing an 8-8 record in the grueling MAC schedule. Eastern finished in fourth place in the tough MAC-West division and qualified for the tournament by earning the seventh-seeded squad before eventually falling to Bowling Green.
The Green and White return nine letterwinners from the 2012 squad, including four starters and its libero. With a roster that includes two seniors, including Paige Roback and Erin Short, the Eagles look to battle for the West Division title. EMU also welcomes three new faces to the 2013 roster, including a pair of NCAA Division I transfers.
Removed from last season's roster are five players, including an All-MAC First Team award winners in Rachel Iaquaniello. Iaquaniello made her mark in the EMU record books during her four years donning the Green and White. The Plymouth, Mich. native was just the second EMU athlete to ever be named to the All-MAC First Team three times, while she also became the all-time leader in both attack attempts (5755) and kills (1949) at Eastern. Iaquaniello also tied 2011 senior Ashley Mason for the most sets played (506) in history at Eastern. The former Eagle also finished her career ranked eighth in all-time digs (1,282) and aces (124) all-time. Kristen Baker is also lost from the 2012 team. Baker became a staple defensively in the middle for the Green and White over the past four years. Baker finished her career with the third-most block assists (342) in Eastern's history. Kaitlyn Vincek, an outside attacker, also departs from the 2012 squad. Kim Hildreth graduated last season and will play sand volleyball as a graduate student at the University of North Florida. Also lost to graduation is Carolyn Steger who was a reserve middle blocker for EMU.
Head Volleyball Coach Kim Berrington used a pair of athletes to set for her team last season. With Kim Hildreth graduating, Alyssa Davis, now a sophomore, will be the only returning setter on the roster. Davis saw 85 sets of action in her first year donning the EMU jersey. Berrington also looks to have a newcomer fight for the starting spot.
Jill Briner, a transfer from Northeastern University, will get into the mix. The 5-10 Briner was a Third Team All-Colonial Athletic Assosciation last season, while being named to the CAA All-Rookie team in the 2011 season. Last season, Briner totaled 547 assists, 218 kills, 204 digs and 50 blocks.
"We are fortunate to have two very good setters in the program," mentioned Berrington. "I'm sure both will be valuable throughout the season and it will certainly give us options."
With the departure of EMU's all-time kills leader, Rachel Iaquaniello, seniors Paige Roback and Erin Short enter their final seasons as two of the Eagles' outside hitters for the 2013 campaign. Last season Short ranked third on the team in kills with 263, while Roback banged home 246, good for fourth on the Green and White. Defensively, Short was third on the team in digs with 285, while picking up 81 blocks.
Stacey Perinar, a sophomore, saw limited time last season as a freshman, but appeared in 16 matches and was able to rack up 46 kills and a .217 attack percentage. Perinar looks to fill the void left by Iaquaniello.
There are also a trio of newcomers to the squad that will look to make an impact on the offensive side of the court. Briner has also had time as a right side hitter. At Northeastern, Briner totaled 218 kills, 204 digs, 50 blocks and 547 assists, while also serving up 29 aces in 2012. In two seasons with NU, the Oak Park, Ill. native averaged 2.22 kills per set.
Dori Harrison is another transfer to the Eagles' squad. Harrison comes to Eastern after spending one season playing for the University of South Florida. Though she saw limited time with USF in her freshman campaign, she has many accolades from her time playing for Beaumont School in Euclid, Ohio. Harrison was named the area's Most Valuable Player by the Sun Press News, while also being named to the Under Armour All America Watch List.
"With the graduation of Rachel, we need some production out of this position," said Berrington. "All of our hitters will have opportunities to contribute this year."
The Eagles lost their top middle blocker from a season ago, but they have a plethora of middle blockers returning this season, as well as a few newcomers who will attempt to re-create what Baker was able to do for EMU.
Returning are Megan Crawshaw, Katie Krasowski, Kelsey Jones and Alexa Salsbury. Crawshaw has been a two-year starter for the Eagles and a staple in the middle the last two seasons. She was named to the All-MAC Freshman Team after her first season and was Eastern's leader in blocks last season, totaling 125, and she was fifth in blocking in the MAC after the season ended.
Both Krasowski and Jones are redshirt-juniors after each sitting out a season. Krasowski missed last season due to injury, while Jones sat out her freshman campaign. Krasowski saw limited time in her first season, playing in 18 sets, posting nine blocks. Last season, Jones saw time in 37 sets and totaled nine blocks as well.
Salsbury will also vie for time in the middle. Salsbury sat out last season, but practiced with the team. She was a three-time All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League in high school. She is very athletic as she was a four-year letterwinner in basketball, track and field and volleyball. Freshman newcomer Devon Murray looks to have an immediate impact on the team. Coming from Shelby, Ohio, Murray played a combination of outside hitter and middle blocker. She was a two-time All-Northern Ohio League First Team selection and an All-District award winner in three seasons. In four seasons at Shelby High School, the 6-1 freshman racked up 908 kills, 611 digs and 542 blocks.
"This is another position where someone has to step up and contribute," remarked Berrington. "Not just defensively, we will need some offensive production out of this spot too."
Sierra Reed was last season's regular libero for EMU, however she is going to be challenged by fellow sophomore, Corynne Smith. Reed led EMU in digs and ranked 10th in the MAC in digs per set (4.27). She totaled 538 on the season and had a .960 reception percentage. Smith saw time in 106 sets and averaged 2.14 digs per set, while keeping a .959 reception percentage.
Junior Natalie Folk returns for her third season donning the Green and White. Folk appeared in 90 sets last season and picked up 96 digs.
"These three will really be expected to solidify our ball control and defense," stated Berrington. "They are all experienced and versatile. It's time for them to play "Eagle D'"
The Green and White will open the season by traveling to Buffalo, N.Y. to take part in a tournament hosted by Canisius College, Aug. 30-31. The schedule of that tournament has yet to be released as the Eagles await their tournament match times. EMU will host Oregon State, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. before hitting the road for its second tournament of the 2013 campaign.
The Eagles' second tournament of the season will take place in Valparaiso, Ind. when the Eagles will take on not only the host Valpairaiso Crusaders, but the Army Black Knights and the Iowa Hawkeyes, Sept. 6-7. This tournament will feature Berrington's daughter, Kelsey, who is a setter for Valpo. Eastern will return home for a rivalry match with the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Convocation Center. The Green and White will be looking to return the favor after last season's five set loss at Oakland.
Following the non-conference tilt with the Golden Grizzlies, EMU will travel to Providence, R.I. for a tournament hosted by Brown, Sept. 13-14. The Eagles will take on Brown, as well as Bryant University and Holy Cross. Eastern will head back home for its final home non-conference match of the season with IPFW, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.
The Eagles will stay in-state for its final tournament of the 2013 campaign when they take part in a tournament hosted by Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. The Green and White will see stiff competition in East Lansing as it will take on the Spartans, Cincinnati and Duquesne.
Following the tournament in East Lansing, EMU will start its grueling 16 game MAC schedule, Sept. 27, when Eastern hosts Ball State inside the friendly confines of the Convocation Center at 7 p.m.