VIRGINIA BEACH – After closing the first decade of intercollegiate volleyball with its ninth winning season, Virginia Wesleyan College's Marlins head into the second decade facing a familiar situation.
Competition will remain challenging for the Marlins, who will face six teams that advanced to the 2012 NCAA championship tournament. Two of those teams are Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) foes Randolph-Macon College and Washington and Lee University, while the other five are some of the top non-conference programs in the nation.
The Marlins will face two of those teams on Friday, Sept. 6, in the Randolph-Macon Invitational where they will take on Texas powerhouse Trinity University at 2:30 p.m. and return to the court at 7:30 to face R-MC.
The Yellow Jackets' tournament is one of seven two-day events for the Marlins, who will begin an ambitious schedule with their own invitational that will bring in New Jersey's Rowan University, Rhode Island's Johnson & Wales University, North Carolina's Meredith College and Virginia's University of Mary Washington. The tournament launches the season on Friday, Aug. 30 and Saturday, Aug.31.
Virginia Wesleyan faces its first ODAC competition on Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14 at Shenandoah University and Washington and Lee, respectively. R-MC and Washington and Lee led the conference last year, with Lynchburg College, Bridgewater and VWC all tied for third place in the regular-season standings. All five teams will factor highly into the conference title race again in 2013.
But, before that happens in the conference tournament in November, there will be a lot of non-conference competition to help form season records. The following is a brief look at the non-conference foes VWC will face this season (overall record, conference record):
Rowan University (22-9, 7-1) – The Profs, who compete in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), advanced to the semifinals of the conference tourney. RU welcomes back four All-NJAC honorees in Nikki Binetti (oms River, N.J./Brick Township, 221 kills), Nicole Ciandella (Hoboken, N.J./Roselle Catholic, 977 assists) and six-footers Krissy Collins (Williamstown, N.J./Williamstown, 191 kills) and Morgan Mende (Glen Rock, N.J./Glen Rock, 205 kills).
Johnson & Wales University (14-19, 8-4) – Members of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC), the Wildcats return first team All-GNAC honoree Giselle Cam Oritz (Vega Alta, Puerto Rico/Marista Mantai) was the league's Defensive Player of the Year and led the league with 704 digs, which ranked 17 th nationally. The 'Cats, who advanced to conference semifinals, also returns 6-foot Carey Kirk (Purcellville, Va./Loudon Valley, 176 kills, 91 total blocks)), another all-conference honoree.
Meredith College (14-13, 5-6) – The Avenging Angels, who compete in the USA South Athetic Conference (USASAC) return 6-foot Molly Markley (Mooresville, N.C./Mooresville, 233 kills), Emily Henricks (Cary, N.C./Panther Creek, 226 kills), and Ally White (Apex, N.C./Cary Christian, 201 digs).
University of Mary Washington (12-13, 4-2) – New head coach Matt Troy, who created a powerhouse program at Johns Hopkins University, now guides the Eagles. He inherits a line-up that will include second team All-Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) honoree Katilynn Wickersham (Midlothian, Va./Manchester, 195 kills). The Eagles, who advanced to the CAC semis in 2012, also welcome back Kayla Crawford (Richmond, Va./Powhata, 192 kills), and Christine Tran (Oakton, Va./Oakton, 316 digs).
North Carolina Wesleyan College (21-10, 9-2) – The Battling Bishops graduated three of the players who helped guide the team to the USASAC semifinals, return all-conference honoree 6-foot Taylor Johnson (Goldsboro, N.C./Rosewood, 300 kills).
Trinity University (20-16, 8-2, NCAA qualifier) – TU started off 0-8, but finished the season with 19 wins in 25 matches and advanced to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers return honorable mention All-American Layne Hubbard (Austin, Texas/Austin, 384 kills), all-region honoree Maryn Swierc (Bulverde, Texas/Bracken Christian, 711 assists), and 6-foot Kelsey Daniel (Spring Branch, Texas/Bracken Christian) and 6-2 Erin Cusenbary (San Antonio, Texas/St. Mary's Hall) who combined for 227 total blocks.
Maryville College (21-12, 10-1) – The Scots fell in the USASAC title game to powerhouse Christopher Newport University. Two of the top performers from that team have graduated, but all-conference honorees 6-foot-1 Kelsey Handel (Knoxville, Tenn./Karns, 102 total blocks) and Mallory Bonee (Powell, Tenn./Karns, 419 digs) return for the Tennessee school.
Salisbury University (37-4, 6-0, NCAA qualifier) – A major change for the Sea Gulls this year will be the debut of new head coach Justin Turco. He takes over a team that advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals before bowing out. All-region honoree Ashlyn Tapley (Odenton, Md./Arundel 343 kills) returns, as does 6-foot-1 second team All-CAC honoree Julie Poston (Laurel, Md./Reservoir) 187 kills). SU finished ranked No. 12 in the nation.
Penn St.-Harrisburg (7-24, 1-10) -- The Lions begin their first season in the tough Capital Athletic Conference this year, moving from the North Eastern Athletic Conference. All-NEAC honoree Chidere Igwe (West Orange, N.J./West Orange, 153 kills, 39 total blocks) returns, along with Elizabeth Findle (New Providence, Pa./Solanco, 286 assists) and Erin Goodyear (Boiling Springs, Pa./Boiling Springs, 272 digs).
St. Mary's College (21-9, 4-2) – New head coach Rose Burke takes over a Seahawks team that advanced to the CAC semifinals in 2012. She will start her stay in Maryland with 6-foot-1 Mandy Goodspeed (Columbia, Md./Atholton, 271 kills, 105 total blocks), the CAC's 2012 Rookie of the Year, who had the top hitting percentage (.365) in the league. The 'Hawks also return 6-2 all-conference honoree Michelle Klima (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial, 242 kills).
Christopher Newport University (40-3, 11-0, NCAA qualifier) – CNU ranked No. 3 in Division III last year. The Captains begin competition in the Capital Athletic Conference this year, after a successful stay in the USASAC, where they closed out with a 109 match winning streak. Six key players have graduated from the 2012 team, but CNU returns Jessie Kolden (Alexandria, Va./Hayfield, 446 kills), Chastity Lacy (Crozet, Va./Western Albemarle, 252 kills, 124 total blocks) and 6-foot Rachel Conway (Fairfax, Va./W.T. Woodson, 200 assists).
Gettysburg College (15-14, 6-4) – Four key veterans return for the Bullets, who compete in the Centennial Conference. Six-foot-2 Sarah Gorski (Darien, Conn./Darien, 245 kills), 6-1 Courtney Cyr (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West, 179 kills), Kelly Milione (Gainesville, Va./Battlefield, 145 kills, 271 digs) and Lizzy Kuhn (Wilmington, Del./Archmere, 485 assists, 174 digs) will be early leaders for the team.
Stevenson University (36-3, 9-0, NCAA qualifier) – The Commonwealth Conference champion Mustangs return a strong nucleus, led by All-Americans Jessica Gieselman (Westminster, Md./Winters Mill) and Samantha Perillo (Wilmington, Del./Friends). Gieselman was the conference Player of the Year and led the league with 1,257 assists. Perillo set a school record with 600 digs. Christine Isenberg (Taneytown, Md./Francis Scott Key, 349 kills) is among a large group of returnees.
Ferrum College (3-22, 1-10) – The Panthers hope to build on experience with a large group of returnees. Six-foot Rachel Stratton (Chesapeake, Va./Hickory, 150 kills), Jordan Link (Pilot, Va./Auburn, 146 kills) and Brittany Jacobs (Rocky Mount, Va./Franklin County, 139 kills) are among the anticipated leaders.
Averett University (25-11, 8-3) -- The Cougars advanced to the semifinals of the USASAC tournament in 2012. The team returns a trio of all-conference honorees in Allison Sparks (Ruffin, N.C./Rockingham County, 449 kills, 338 digs, 123 totall blocks), Sarah Sparks (Ruffin, N.C./Rockingham County, 262 kills) and Nicole Barringer (Landis, N.C./South Rowan, 1,273 assists, 205 digs.)