The Spalding University volleyball team reported to the first practice of the season last week to kick off what Head Coach Bridget Yates describes as a “season of unbelievable potential.” The team is coming off a 21-10 finish last season, with a 13-5 record among conference opponents. Coach Yates is looking to improve over last year’s performance, but admits the team’s youth creates some unique challenges. “We are talented, athletic and gritty, but with a several freshman and sophomores in key positions we will need time to create cohesion as a team.”
The Golden Eagles added two middle blockers to the squad with the addition of 6-4 freshman Claudia Spivey from Memphis, Tenn. and 5-10 Theresa Kwarciany from Brandenburg, Ky. Coach Yates believes “Claudia and Theresa both have a great deal to learn, but are athletic and have tremendous work ethic. I expect their improvement to be remarkable week to week and am excited to see them compete.”
Other freshman joining the squad are Defensive Specialist Samantha Goble from Paintsville, Ky. and setter Brittany Rickert, a local player and graduate of Holy Cross High School. Coach Yates looks for Goble to focus this season on learning the team’s defensive systems and describes her as “the kind of kid who doesn’t take no for an answer. She will push with everything she has to challenge the upperclassman for their positions in the lineup.” Rickert will be competing for the chance to lead the offense this season. “She has a high volleyball I.Q. and makes excellent decisions in the setting position,” Coach Yates said of Rickert. “She is a skilled setter and knows how to run an offense and make the whole team better.”
The team also adds transfer Kendra Mahan, a product of the state champion Christian Academy of Indiana team out of New Albany, Ind. “Kendra is the dark horse of the team. Her skill set is broad and she has unbelievable ball control. She is focused and determined and is warrior on the court. She is the type of player who always seems to find a way to score.”
These new players join the eight returning from last year’s squad, all of whom are looking to increase their roles on the team. Pin hitters Ashley Chase and Morgan Berning return and are expected to lead the team’s offense from the outside hitting position. Coach Yates expects big things from both Chase and Berning and added, “they have experience in a variety of positions and give us a lot of options out of the front row. We will be looking to both of them to score for us.”
The defense returns a significant number of experienced players with juniors Koti Weaver, Amanda Patterson and Jill Dunagan and sophomores Devyn Tompkins and Maddie Rosendaul. “Our defensive specialists will be some of the most experienced players on the court for us this season, and this group of players made unbelievable progress in the off season to get stronger and faster. I expect our defense will be better than it has been in years.”
Junior setter Kaitlin Hall returns to the squad in hopes of leading the team’s offense this season. “Throughout her career here, Kaitlin has led the team through some tough situations. She was thrust into the starting line up her freshman year when our starting setter was injured, then spent her sophomore year predominantly as a backup setter. She has an opportunity to make this year her year to shine” Coach Yates said of Hall.
In addition to new players on the team, the Golden Eagles have added two new Assistant Coaches to replace Assistant Coach Steve Kennedy who retired after the 2016 season. Sara Schott, a 2012 graduate of Spalding and three-year starter for the Spalding volleyball team, returns to her alma mater to join the coaching staff. She is joined by recent Spalding Alum Jessica Diehl, the 2016 SLIAC Player of the Year, who will also serve as an assistant coach.