BULLDOGS READY FOR SECOND YEAR OF DIVISION I PLAY, YOUTH AND HEALTH KEY TO CONTINUED SUCCESS
August 21, 2009
BULLDOG VOLLEYBALL LOOKS TO CONTINUE SUCCESS IN 2009, TO RELY ON COMBINATION OF YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE IN SECOND SEASON OF DI ACTION
SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- In its first year of Division I competition, the Bryant University volleyball program did more than just hold its own - the 2008 Bulldogs proved that they are where they belong.
And now, in its second year at the pinnacle of the NCAA ladder, Bryant volleyball must do it again, and then some.
After a 16-win season last year, earning wins over teams from such conferences as the Ivy League, the Patriot League, the America East and Bryant's future home in the Northeast Conference, opponents will be looking for revenge in 2009.
But the Bulldogs are also looking to repay some losses of their own this season, and with a core of five returning to the Chace Athletic Center Gymnasium, they are poised to do just that.
And those returning letterwinners won't be alone, as head coach Theresa Garlacy brings in a class of four solid rookies to help Bryant continue last year's success at the Division I level.
But even with a strong class of incoming freshmen, Garlacy - who sits at 360 career wins entering her 14th season at the helm - will need to fill the shoes of a trio of record-setting 2008 graduates if the Bulldogs wish to make a name for themselves in Division I.
Returning to lead the Bulldogs both on the court and off, senior co-captain Julie Geonnotti (Eden Prairie, Minn.) will anchor a front line that remains almost wholly intact from the 2008 season. Geonnotti and the rest of the Bulldogs also welcome back impact sophomore Jazmin Stoner (Durango, Colo.), who was part of a freshman class that was integral to Bryant's success in 2008.
Bryant's returning outside hitters accounted for two of the team's top four point and kill getters in 2008 - Stoner at No. 3 (331.5, 298) and Geonnotti at No. 4 (183.5, 156) - and look to continue to contribute as much and more with another year of collegiate experience under their belts.
But the Bulldogs will also welcome versatile newcomer Macy Mitravich (Waimanalo, Hawaii) to the outside hitter mix. A rookie who is known to create deadly angles at the net, Mitravich will add a new dimension of arm speed and quickness to an already strong line in 2009.
Arguably the Bulldogs' top offensive player, 6-foot-2 sophomore Maria Scocca (Melrose, Mass.) returns to anchor the middle. A member of last year's devastating freshman trio, Scocca is always a threat to thwart opposing attacks with her long arms and superior blocking skills, leading the team with 127 blocks (24 solo, 103 assists) in 2008. Scocca also led the 2008 Bulldogs in nearly every offensive category, including kills (343) and points (447).
Scocca will be joined in the middle by newcomer Emily Kaup (Chandler, Ariz.). Standing at an even 6-foot, Kaup's smoothness and grace on the court make her a strong blocker and an offensive threat from the outset.
Junior co-captain Adrienne Boss (Dracut, Mass.) will be looked upon to come back strong after missing the second half of her sophomore campaign with a back injury. Despite playing in just 23 of the Bulldogs' 35 matches last year, Boss finished fifth on the team in kills (148), blocks (30) and points (165) and will be expected to up those numbers with her return to full health. Versatile freshmen Mitravich and Kaup could also be called upon to help out at rightside.
With the setter position wide open, Garlacy welcomes the return of now-senior Adriana Fuertes (Miramar, Puerto Rico) to join rookie Samantha Whitham (So. Weymouth, Mass.) to compete in a heated battle for the starting spot. But with her experience and success in 2008, Geonnotti will also be looked upon to contribute in the setting ranks and fill in at the quarterback role.
Fuertes brings experience and stability to the position with her solid hands and knowledge of the Bulldog offense while Geonnotti can call upon her experience last season to guide the offense. Whitham, with her aggressive serve and tough mentality, will look to use her athleticism and furious work ethic to make an impact of her own.
After losing two defensive-minded seniors from last year's roster, the Bulldogs throw the responsibilities to junior Robyn Gardner (Longwood, Fla.), who has spent two seasons improving her defensive game. Poised to take over as libero in 2009, Gardner will be looked toward to run the defense and push her teammates with her intensity and quickness.
But freshman Rebecca Meyer (Commack, N.Y.) will be in the mix defensively, too, with quickness and dedication of her own.