Tue, Aug. 28, 2012 - [Volleyball]
Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - University of Rio Grande head volleyball coach Billina Donaldson is hoping that her squad's season opener is well worth the wait.
The RedStorm finally get their 2012 schedule underway on Wednesday night, traveling north to the University of Northwestern Ohio for a 7 p.m. first serve at Racers Gymnasium. The match was originally scheduled to be part of a tri-match which also included Huntington (Ind.) University, but a late change now has Rio's only contest against the host Racers.
"We're very excited to get started," Donaldson said. "We were supposed to open last Tuesday at West Virginia Tech, but they asked us to reschedule. We've been champing at the bit ever since. UNOH is a great way to start because they've got a nice team that's always coached well and has a lot of talent."
The RedStorm returns nearly all of last year's team, which won the Mid-South Conference East Division on its way to a 21-15 finish overall after a loss in the semifinal round of the MSC Tournament.
The large contingent of returnees has Donaldson entertaining high hopes this season.
"We're tired of hearing the word 'potential'," she said. "This year, it's all about getting it done. We've got just about everybody back."
Topping the list of returnees is a trio of first team All-MSC performers from 2011 - senior outside hitter Whitney Smith (Albany, OH), senior middle blocker Erin Sherman (South Webster, OH) and senior libero Lauren Raines (Albany, OH).
Smith led the league with 486 kills, ranked third in the MSC with 58 service aces, was sixth in the conference in hitting percentage (.278) and 11th in digs with 432. Sherman led the MSc with 133 blocks, ranked 2nd behind Smith in kills with 400 and was third in the league in hitting percentage (.330).
Raines had a conference-leading 646 digs.
Also back is junior setter Kayla Landaker (Coshocton, OH), who ranked third in the MSC with 1,033 assists, while top newcomers include the freshman duo of Kelsey Beatty (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) and Alexandra Phillips (Williamsport, OH).
"Kelsey is like having a Whitney, Jr.," Donaldson said, referring to the comparison with Smith. "Alex gives us another true middle to go along with Erin, which is something we didn't have last year. They're both getting better every practice."
UNOH, which will be playing Huntington prior to its matchup with Rio, is off to a 2-1 start. Head coach Kevin Kitchen's team defeated Cincinnati Christian and Georgetown (Ky.) before falling to Indiana East last Saturday.
The Racers are led by junior outside hitter Casey Gates (5-9), who had a club-best 14 kills, five digs and four blocks in the win over Cincinnati Christian, in addition to junior setter Lauren Maxwell (5-4), who had 46 assists in the victory.
Other players to watch include junior middle blocker Brittany Egbert (6-0) and junior outside hitter Sabrina Lemmink (5-9), who combined for 23 kills and four blocks in the win over CCU.