Charlotte, NC - After posting the highest winning percentage in program history in 2016, the Johnson & Wales University volleyball team has its sights set on its first appearance at the USCAA National Championship tournament since 2013 and third overall. This year's team, which returns nine players from last season’s 20-win squad, features what head coach Callie Phillips describes as a “balanced attack on offense and a tenacious defense”.
"This team started preparing for this season on the last day of last season," said Phillips. "They hit the weight room in the winter and worked extremely hard in our spring season. They knew that we dropped a few matches that we shouldn't have last season, and they weren't about to make that mistake again. Combined with a stellar recruiting class, this team is poised to be our most dynamic team yet.”
Circled on the schedule is a crucial USCAA tournament at Penn State Beaver in Monaca, PA over Labor Day weekend. The tournament will feature all USCAA opponents, including four 2016 national championship qualifiers. A successful showing in the event will be key for the team in earning a berth at nationals.
The rest of the schedule features opponents from numerous divisions, including NCCAA, NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III programs.
The Wildcats open play on August 25 with a tri-match at Toccoa Falls College.
SENIORS - Madison Steed is the team's lone senior after transferring into the program last season. She will reclaim her starting role and provide strong blocking and attacking from the right side and serves as the team's co-captain.
JUNIORS - Halle Franklin looks to follow up her USCAA All-American Honorable Mention performance in 2016 by anchoring the team's defense at libero. She will also be counted on to provide strong leadership off the court in her second season as team captain. Tiy Gonzalez will return to her starting role at middle hitter and has refined her blocking and hitting to provide a constant force at the net. Keri Ketchie has transitioned from outside hitter to setter and has earned a setting role in the team's 6-2 offense.
SOPHOMORES - Toniya Scott and Johmillet Berrios will return to their starting roles at middle and outside hitter. Both were in the top three in hitting percentage and kills last season and will lead a more balanced attack from the offense. Victoria Hicklin can contribute at many positions and is likely to see considerable playing time this season. Defensive specialists Angelique Davis and Teyana Eason further cement the Wildcat defense as arguably the toughest and deepest side to date.
FRESHMEN - The Wildcats have five new freshmen this season, and all of them have made an impact during the preseason. Kendall Watson provides what Phillips describes as “stellar defense, an impressive jump serve, and a strong attacking option to the back line”. Moana Reid fills a crucial role at setter and will help distribute the ball to the Wildcat hitters. Jamie Hay brings what Phillips calls “a monster swing and elite blocking skills” at right side, and Iyana Favor's vertical and ability to hit around a block will earn her playing time as well. Lastly, Kristina Galanakos began the season as the team's manager, but she quickly played her way into a roster spot as a defensive specialist and will help bolster an already strong back row.