Women’s Volleyball Season Preview

Last season, the USF volleyball team finished with a 22-8 overall record and second place in the West Coast Conference.  The Lady Dons also earned their second bid to the NCAA Tournament.  USF earned national rankings for four weeks during the 2008 season.  The Dons look to continue the momentum from last season with seven returning players and a talented group of seven newcomers.  The Dons are focusing on a fifth consecutive winning season along with winning the conference.

Although the Lady Dons have seven letter winners returning, they will have to fill some voids – Carly Babin, Alix Gombos, Darcy Carroll and Addie Webster left due to graduation.  As reported by usfdons.com, Head coach Gilad Doran said that the “young players are motivated to continue on the path we started to build for our program in the past two seasons and with the help of key returning players we can grow to be a competitive program in the WCC if we stay healthy and continue to believe in the process.”  The Lady Dons are adding eight newcomers to the team; they include six freshmen, a redshirt freshman and a senior.  There are eight newcomers, and only three returning starters.

Junior Alaina Sully emerges as the starting setter and she is expected to take control of running the offense this season.  Freshman Leanna Ludes will provide depth as a setter.  Senior Haley Carroll will continue as the Dons’ libero.  Sophomore Leinani Keanini will support Carroll as an outside hitter.  Freshmen Elyse Cohen and Lauren Quach joined the team as defensive specialists, but they are expected to battle for time on the court.  Junior Sarah Mandala will lead the Dons at the opposite position.  Redshirt freshman Erin Kilroy will provide depth for this position and she will be fighting for time on the right side.  Filling the middle blocker position would be difficult since Alix Gombos and Carly Babin graduated.  However, there is a young group of middle blockers led by redshirt sophomore Erin Bragg.  Freshmen Jordan Irish and Hadley Simmons will be vying for time as a middle blocker.  Fifth-year senior Anna Berger will lead at the outside hitter position with help from Keanini.  Freshmen Lauren Bergold and Alycia Cox will join Berger and Keanini at the outside hitter position.

This season, the Dons will face a challenging schedule; the Dons will play nine teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, including Stanford, who was the National Champion runner-up.  The West Coast Conference also is a challenge for the Dons.  Last season, five WCC teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In preseason rankings, San Diego and Santa Clara are both ranked while Pepperdine received votes.  Doran stated to usfdons.com, that he is looking forward to another great WCC year; he mentioned that the late start of WCC conference play will help the Dons’ success in the WCC this season.

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