NORTON, Mass.- Head coach Craig Letourneau didn't waste any time making an imprint on the Wheaton College women's volleyball program, as the second-year man brought in a staggering 10 freshmen hailing from seven different states to complement his nine returning players. Hitting the recruiting trail hard, Letourneau hopes to see the fruits of his labor this fall.
"I am ecstatic with our first recruiting class here at Wheaton," said Letourneau, who made two head coaching stops at Emerson College and Rhode Island College before landing at Wheaton. "We wanted to bring in a big group of high-quality recruits that would immediately have a significant impact on the program."
Letourneau endured growing pains in 2011, as eight of the 13 players were underclassmen. Playing experience was also limited due in part to three starters graduating and the team's top hitter transferring following the 2010 campaign. Last year's Lyons went 4-27 overall and 0-9 in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC).
"Our goal is to compete with every team we play this year," added Letourneau, "and from what I have seen during preseason we have the ability and personnel to do that."
With 14 of Wheaton's 19 players representing the freshman and sophomore classes, the Lyons will lean on co-captains Christina Cannon (Milford, N.H./Milford) and Olanna Nissim (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) for senior leadership. Frances Trimble (Rapid City, S.D./Northfield Mount Hermon School) and Rachel Vergara (Needham, Mass./Needham) round out the Class of 2013.
Cannon finished second on last year's team in kills (168) and digs (247), while Nissim ranked in the league's top 10 in assists (635) during her first season as the team's primary setter. Vergara's 132 kills and 115 digs were both good for third on the squad, while Trimble turned in 109 digs.
Front row players Lindsay Tebbetts (Gilmanton, N.H./Gilford) and Kara-Jane Walker (Needham, Mass./Needham) comprise Wheaton's junior class. Tebbetts led the 2011 Lyon attack with 242 kills and paced the way in hitting percentage and blocks. She was also third in service aces. Walker ranked fourth on the team in blocks and fifth in kills.
Wheaton's sophomore class consists of Megan Donahue (East Lyme, Conn./East Lyme), Leigh Hunt (Milford, Conn./Jonathan Law) and Ariella Levine (Astoria, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy). Donahue placed fourth on the squad in digs, while Hunt was fourth in blocks.
Nearly half of the Lyons' first-year players made the trek from the opposite side of the country, as Page Gustafson (South Lake Tahoe, Calif./South Tahoe), Kendall Jacobs (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch), Elise Waelder (San Diego, Calif./Point Loma) and Deirdre Wilson (Aptos, Calif./Aptos) all hail from the Golden State.
Joining the aforementioned four as out-of-region players are Sarah Alexander (Wayne, Pa./Conestoga), Robyn D'Agostino (Three Bridges, N.J./Hunterdon Central Regional) and Casey Hess (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington North).
Rounding out the first-year class are New Englanders Arieanne Creighton (Brookline, N.H./Hollis Brookline), Jackie Kochiss (Milford, Conn./Jonathan Law) and Taylor Matook (Exeter, R.I./Exeter-West Greenwich).
The Lyons enjoy the benefit of playing their first four matches in the friendly confines of Emerson Gymnasium, beginning with this Saturday's four-team invitational. Beginning on September 7, Wheaton plays three matches in nine days against conference powers, facing 22nd-ranked Springfield College twice and the United States Coast Guard Academy one time. Coast Guard is receiving national votes in the preseason poll.