2013 William Penn Volleyball Preview
2012 record: 28-15 (3-3 MCC, 5th)
Starters returning/lost: 4/2
Letterwinners returning/lost: 13/7
Dayna Sammons Jr. Menomonee Falls, Wis.
(Honorable-mention all-MCC, 1,221 assists, 68 aces, 418 digs)
Jeanette Cunningham Sr. Mt. Orab, Ohio
(Honorable-mention all-MCC, 313 kills, .268 attack pct., 97 blocks)
Danielle Breeher So. St. Louis, Mo.
(Honorable-mention all-MCC, 690 digs, 20 aces)
Alanna Connors Sr. Libertyville, Ill.
(153 kills, 153 digs)
Shawni Wills Fr. Oskaloosa, Iowa
Kristal Campos Jr. Lancaster, Calif.
New leadership is creating quite a buzz around the William Penn volleyball camp as the program seeks to fight for league supremacy in 2013.
The Statesmen were quite solid in 2012, going 28-15 last fall (3-3 Midwest Collegiate Conference)–the program’s highest win total since 1985. Attempting to build off that success will be new head coach Jennifer Carlson, who comes to William Penn after spending time on the staffs at her alma mater Adrian College as well as at Siena Heights University.
“This has been a huge change for our players, but they are working really hard to learn our new style of play,” Carlson said. “They have adjusted well and have brought a great attitude every day.”
Gone are all-MCC performers Lacey Taylor and Katie Rielly, but the proverbial pantry is far from bare as fellow all-league stars Jeanette Cunningham (Sr., Mt. Orab, Ohio, Elementary Education), Dayna Sammons (Jr., Menomonee Falls, Wis., Software Engineering), and Danielle Breeher (So., St. Louis, Mo., Undecided) return to bolster this fall’s crew.
A fairly hitter-laden squad, the Statesmen have plenty of options on both ends of the netting. Alanna Connors (Sr., Libertyville, Ill., Biology) will provide the most experience at the ‘pins’, having 153 kills with 71 assists, five aces, 153 digs, and 32 blocks last year.
“Alanna is working hard to contribute and give us strong leadership as a senior,” Carlson said.
Newcomers Kristal Campos (Jr., Lancaster, Calif., Sociology) and Shawni Wills (Fr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Biology) will also vie for a starting position.
“As a junior college player, Kristal will bring some great experience to the court,” Carlson said. “Shawni is a talented freshman and she is working hard to fill some big shoes left by Lacey and Katie.”
Right Side Hitter
Wills is actually projected to see more time as a right side hitter. It is not a spot she will steal, however, as she will have considerable challenges from several teammates, including returners Courtney Kennedy (Jr., Moville, Iowa, Elementary Education) and Corrie Bailey (Sr., Fayetteville, Ark., Biology).
Kennedy recorded 51 kills, 34 digs, and ten blocks a year ago.
“Courtney has been a solid player for this program in the past and I expect her to challenge for the spot,” Carlson said.
Joining the fray will be fellow returners Kahala Kaowili (So., Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Biology) and DeAuntra Pryor (So., East Chicago, Ill., Elementary Education) as well as new faces Zeja Shannon (Fr., Homewood, Ill., Pre-Law) and Maddi Ewing (So., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Elementary Education).
“This whole group has been giving a great effort and will be ready if we need them at either pin position,” Carlson said.
While the ends are still a bit of a mystery, the middle hitter slot is much more concrete as Cunningham and Kylie Giger (Fr., Elkhart, Ind., Exercise Science) return as formidable starters.
Cunningham’s 313 kills from 2012 are the most of any returner. She hit .268 with a team-best 97 blocks, while Giger was not far behind with 300 kills (.204 clip), 35 aces, 134 digs, and 87 blocks.
“Jeanette and Kyle have been getting a lot thrown at them with technique changes,” Carlson said. “They are absorbing things like sponges, though, and I can start to see some good glimpses of how strong our middle should be.”
Depth is no concern with returners Ana Gutch (So., Eddyville, Iowa, Secondary Education) and Chelsea Aschenbrenner (So., Agency, Iowa, Physical Education) back in the fold as well.
Gutch managed 15 kills and 14 blocks and Aschenbrenner added five kills last season.
“Ana and Chelsea are waiting in the wings and will be pushing Jeanette and Kylie all year,” Carlson said. “We feel very good about our middle.”
Equally impressive should be the setter position with suitable setting candidates available in spades for the navy and gold.
Sammons will be heading the charge after posting 1,221 digs, 80 kills (.268 clip), 68 aces, 418 digs, and 26 blocks in a 2012 year that was shortened a bit by injury.
Returners Leyra Jusino (So., Bayamon, P.R., General Biology) and Emily McHugh (So., Plainfield, Ill., Pre-Law & Psychology) will compete with newcomer Sarah Stepp (So., Oakville, Mo., Undecided) for time on the court.
Jusino stepped up when Sammons went down, finishing 2012 with 233 assists, 18 kills, 37 aces, and 303 digs, while McHugh tallied 54 assists and 25 digs.
“Dayna was very strong in our 5-1 offense (one-setter formation) last year and Leyra and Emily did well in her absence when she got injured,” Carlson said. “Sarah brings another option to this position and will also contribute in the back row. Our setters all have very high volleyball IQs. They know the game very well and where to position the ball on every play. I have no doubt they will be a strong aspect of our game.”
Breeher stepped right into the fire last season and that experience should post large dividends in 2013 as she returns at libero. The sophomore led all players with 690 digs in addition to 20 aces and 17 assists.
“Danielle is a solid, hard-nosed athlete,” Carlson said. “I really hope she will step up into the leadership role for our back row.”
Kelsey Guyette (Fr., Ottumwa, Iowa, Elementary Education) may also battle for action.
“Kelsey is improving every day in the back row and gives us another option,” Carlson said.
William Penn opens 2013 by again competing in the Mount Mercy Tournament on August 23-24. The squad has eight home matches this fall, including its home opener on September 11 against Buena Vista. A total of seven tournaments and a few triangulars highlight a schedule that Carlson hopes will prepare WPU for another tough league season.
“We are in quite a few tournaments, which will help us get a lot of volleyball in before conference starts,” Carlson said. “Once MCC action begins, we expect to be more than ready. ‘We Are One’ is one of our mottos and something we plan to improve upon every day and be ready to execute once conference gets underway.”
Viterbo and Grand View moved the MCC into the NAIA’s spotlight with exceptional seasons last year. The V-Hawks were especially impressive with an unprecedented run all the way to the national quarterfinals. Both programs have lost some talent, but are still picked to lead the league this season. William Penn collected enough points to be fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll.
“Being new, I know very little of what everyone has on their squads,” Carlson said. “Obviously having the top two teams being ranked poses a challenge for us, but we are ready to see how we match up to programs of that caliber.”
“We have plenty of motivation to prove ourselves this fall in the conference and we will work hard every day to reach our goals,” Carlson added.
“We as a coaching staff sit down every day and say the same things about how excited we are about this change,” Carlson said. “We cannot wait to see where we can take William Penn volleyball. It should be a fun year.”