2012 Women’s Volleyball Preview
August 31, 2012
By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
In head coach Ben Guiliano’s first year leading Keuka College’s women’s volleyball team, the Storm won the second-most matches in school history, advanced into the semifinals of the North Eastern Athletic Conference’s (NEAC) postseason tournament and recorded 16 three-set sweeps in finishing the season 20-10 overall and 6-4 in the NEAC.
So what does the Storm do for an encore in 2012?
With 10 returning student-athletes and a talented mix of both transfers and freshmen, Guiliano is excited about his team’s prospects on the eve of the opening matches, when the Storm travels to Buffalo for the annual NEAC/Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) challenge, hosted by D’Youville College.
“Our goal is to win the NEAC. Are we in the conversation among the top four teams in the conference? Absolutely,” said Guiliano, who has amassed 481 career wins coaching collegiate women’s volleyball during his career.
“We think, based on what we’re doing so far in pre-season and practices that we have the potential to do that. We’re deep, we have a lot of flexibility at all positions and I think our roster, top to bottom, is stronger than it’s been in years past. We’re excited about our experience level.”
Keuka opens the 2012 campaign at D’Youville at 1 p.m. Saturday before taking on Hilbert College at 3 p.m. The Storm swept D’Youville in three sets during the 2011 NEAC/AMCC showdown and won all three matches against Hilbert, taking nine of 11 sets.
Junior Paige Golden (Kent, NY/Albion) and sophomore Devan Curtis (San Clemente, CA/San Clemente) each earned All-NEAC honors in 2011. Golden, a talented outside hitter, netted first-team All-NEAC after leading the Storm in digs (431), digs per game (4.40), kills (285), kills per game (2.91) and service aces.
Curtis, also a talented outside hitter, earned third-team All-NEAC after recording 241 kills, 223 digs, 33 service aces and 20 blocks in 97 games played. She was third on the team in both kills, kills per game (2.48) and service aces (33), and her 223 digs were fourth-most on the squad.
The depth at the hitter positions also includes junior Gina Ferruzza (Penfield, NY/Webster Schroeder), who made tremendous strides during her sophomore campaign, as well as sophomore Shante Paulo (Binghamton, NY/Binghamton), voted the team’s Most Improved Player.
Factor in the solid contributions expected from both sophomore Dani Alred (Horseheads, NY/Horseheads) and freshman Morgan Eberley (Utica, NY/Whitesboro) and Guiliano feels the hitters are definitely a strong point on this team.
Transfer student-athletes Meg Houlihan (Elysian, MN/Minnesota State) and Deliane Lessard (Rochester, NY/Genesee Community College), who can play both middle and outside hitter, are expected to jump in and immediately contribute.
“We’re going to be physical in the middle of the court, even though we lost (second-team All-NEAC hitter) Brittany Smyder and Rachael Perry,” Guiliano said.
“Morgan is extremely athletic and physically gifted, and she will contribute in the middle. I look for big things from both Gina and Shante, in addition to what Paige and Devan bring to the table in both leadership and talent. Paige had a phenomenal year for us last year, one of the best I’ve seen, and Devan had the third-highest hitting percentage for us and she’ll only continue to get better.”
Also returning are Keuka’s best setters, led by junior Jill Nolan (Johnson City, NY/Maine-Endwell), who recorded a team-most 417 assists (an average of 8.02 assists per game) to go with 98 digs, 22 service aces (fifth-most on the team) and 17 blocks. Nolan will be the Storm’s top setter, but will receive plenty of help from junior Rachel Parker (Chaumont, NY/Thousand Islands) and freshmen Brittany Kuhn-Finley (Palmyra, NY/Palmyra-Macedon) and Katie Ziwasa (Amsterdam, NY/Gallway).
Guiliano is impressed by the setters’ collective skill, and feels “all four of our setters can get the job done and put the ball where it needs to go for our hitters to be successful.”
As for the passing component of the Storm, Golden, Curtis, juniors Taylor Smith (Webster, NY/Webster Schroeder) and Taylor Wade (Hammondsport, NY/Hammondsport) and sophomore Julia Coryell (Phelps, NY/Midlakes) provide Guiliano with the talent and skill necessary to compete in the conference, said Guiliano.
The Storm will be captained by Golden and Nolan.
Keuka kicks off the home portion of its schedule with a 7 p.m. non-conference clash with SUNY Oswego on Sept. 4, the first of four straight home matches, before welcoming SUNY Canton and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) to campus for the 2012 Keuka College Invitational, Sept. 7-8.
It marks the first time Keuka has hosted a non-conference based tournament since 2010, when the Storm split a pair of matches during the day-long Keuka College Halloween Invitational.
The home matches continue on Tuesday night, Sept. 11 when the Green and Gold faces the University of Pitt-Bradford in a 7 p.m. match inside the Weed before Keuka travels to Hilbert College for the two-day Hilbert Invitational, Sept. 14-15.
The first of three scheduled NEAC crossover competitions has Keuka heading to SUNY Cobleskill for matches with Penn State-Berks, the College of St. Elizabeth and Lancaster Bible College, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22-23. Keuka will take on Berks (2 p.m.) and St. Elizabeth (6 p.m.) on Saturday before facing Lancaster Bible (10 a.m.) Sunday morning. Berks, which went 10-0 in league matches last year, eliminated the Storm from the NEAC postseason tournament with a four-set win.
After a non-conference match at SUNY Geneseo Sept. 26, the Green and Gold host Ithaca College, which went 21-15 last year, for a 7 p.m. match Sept. 27 and Alfred University at 7 p.m. Oct. 1.
Cazenovia College will host the second NEAC crossover competition, with Keuka facing Morrisville State at 3 p.m. and SUNY Cobleskill at 5 p.m. Oct. 6. The following day, the Storm faces host Cazenovia at 10 a.m. and SUNYIT at noon.
Guiliano’s squad then hits the road for the two-day Hartwick College/Holiday Inn Invitational, Oct. 12-13, before hosting the Wells College Express in a 7 p.m. match Oct. 16.
Wrapping up the three NEAC crossover competitions, Penn State-Abington is the host when the Nittany Lions and Keuka square off at 5 p.m. Oct. 20, followed with a 9 p.m. clash with Gallaudet University, the two-time defending NEAC champions. On Sunday, Oct. 21, Keuka closes out conference play with an 11 a.m. match against Penn State-Harrisburg.
The Storm closes out the regular season with a 7 p.m. match at Alfred on Oct. 24 before hosting Morrisville State at 1 p.m. Oct. 27.
The NEAC tournament runs Nov. 2-3, with the winner earning the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA’s. Keuka last won the NEAC postseason tournament in 2004 and lost in the title match during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, but has not appeared in the championship match since.