NORTON, Mass.- Wheaton College fifth-year head women's volleyball coach Ben Read wasn't about to exude a great deal of patience when it came to addressing the team his expectations for 2010. He approached his 14-player squad during the first day of preseason.
"We're playing 21 non-conference matches," said Read, "and our goal is to win the majority of those and finish above .500. It would be a good accomplishment and one I anticipate preparing us to achieve similar results in the conference."
The 2009 team went 18-15 overall, including a solid 9-5 home mark, but won just two of nine New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) matches. Suffering three five-set losses in league play, the Lyons found themselves on the outside looking in when it came time for the conference tournament.
"We didn't come together much as a team last year," said Read. "Right now I see us playing consistently well as a unit. That should make a difference in our NEWMAC matches. We also added athleticism. Our strengths have been ball control and defense, and now adding that athleticism in the front row and playing behind that should make us better."
Senior co-captains Kristen Hunt (Milford, Conn./Jonathan Law) and Becca Rose (Sudbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury Regional) will lead this year's team, with Hunt vying for the libero job. Hunt ranks fifth in program history in digs with 1,464. Rose will quarterback the team's offense from her setter position for the fourth straight year. Just 148 assists shy of becoming the school's all-time leader, Rose is third with 3,214 and tied for sixth in aces (204).
Senior Kaitlyn Stokes (Tewksbury, Mass./Tewksbury Memorial) is in line to start on the right side, while lone junior Emily Davisson (Carpinteria, Calif./Laguna Blanca School) is battling Hunt for the libero spot. Stokes finished tied for third on the team in blocks in 2009, and Davisson was second in the NEWMAC in digs.
Sophomore Rachel Vergara (Needham, Mass./Needham) should see ample time as an outside or right-side hitter, while classmates Christina Cannon (Milford, N.H./Milford) and Olanna Nissim (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) are competing for time in the back row and on the outside. Setter Gabriela Bronstein (New York, N.Y./Abraham Joshua Heschel School) and defensive specialist Frances Trimble (Rapid City, S.D./Northfield Mount Hermon School) round out the class.
Wheaton's five-member freshman class is comprised of Marguerite Copeland (Woodbridge, Va./Oldfields School), Morgan Herrington (Honeoye Falls, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima), Jackie Jones (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan), Lindsay Tebbetts (Gilmanton, N.H./Gilford) and Kara-Jane Walker (Needham, Mass./Needham). Herrington and Tebbetts are in the mix for starting middle spots, while Jones has secured a starting slot on the outside.
Wheaton kicks things off this week by hosting non-league foe Rhode Island College on Thursday as well as a four-team invitational on Saturday.