by Joel Nelson
The Penn State Altoona women's volleyball team is set to begin its 2018 season on a quest for success. The team tied for first place in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference's preseason rankings, joining Pitt-Bradford in that first-place nod. Last season, both Penn State Altoona and Pitt-Bradford finished 7-2 in the AMCC, with the Lady Lions getting the edge over UPB from head-to-head record. To live up to the AMCC's expectations, 11th year head coach Phil Peterman added that the important part is "keeping the team healthy and injury-free." He added that a pair of key injuries halted the team's momentum prior to the conference semifinals last season.
The execution to win games is very important to coach Peterman, adding, "We will also continue to stress making perfect passes out of serve receive and when the opposing team gives us free balls. As a team, we will have to continue to develop a sense of urgency on the court, so that we are not missing serves and continue to develop put-away hitters that will give us the ability to side out."
The Lady Lions return three seniors in outside hitters Kelsey Bristol (Troy, PA/Troy) and Kaitlin Cassaday (Bel Air, MD/Bel Air), as well as defensive specialist Nicole Kiser (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle). Peterman says his three seniors are excellent leaders to their underclassmen teammates.
"I hope that this leadership continues through the season. I have enjoyed great success with these three individuals over the last three seasons," he said. "They have played in two championship matches and have earned two bids to the Eastern College Athletic Conference Tournament, as well. I would love to send them out with another successful year and with an AMCC Championship and berth to the NCAA tournament."
The team also returns junior Emily Bryan (Waynesboro, PA/Waynesboro) and sophomores Lauren Moran (Johnstown, PA/Westmont Hilltop), Tara Ryan (Waldwick, NJ/Waldwick), and Velanna Skripek (Moshannon, PA/Bald Eagle).
Bristol led the team in digs per set last season with 3.62, and Moran led the team in assists with 546 and service aces with 31. Both have been named "players to watch" by the AMCC for the 2018 season. Bristol was also voted a second team All-AMCC selection last year. Bristol and Skripek lead the returning starters in kills and kills per set from last season, while Ryan had 24 kills over 79 sets last year.
New Lady Lions for fall 2018 include Alison Abrashoff (Dillsburg, PA/Northern York), Kaila Clawson (Altoona, PA/Altoona), Lea Crofcheck (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone), Alyson Onder (Snow Shoe, PA/Bald Eagle), Kelsey Short (Bloomfield, NJ/Bloomfield), Eden Taddei (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg), Abigail Williamson (Gallitzin, PA/Penn Cambria), and Kristin Wineland (Altoona, PA/Altoona). Peterman is very excited for all of his freshmen.
"I look forward to a bright future from this freshmen class," he said. "They bring height, power, and are very good defensively. The majority of them will be contributors right away. They bring good spirit to the court and are confident in their own abilities. They don't shy away from competition and have a strong desire to win."
The Lady Lions begin their season on Friday, August 31 in Gettysburg, Pa. as part of the Gettysburg College Battlefield Classic. They take on Penn State Harrisburg and Dickinson College that day, then face McDaniel College and Gallaudet University on Saturday, September 1. They Lady Lions return to Adler Arena on Tuesday, September 4 with a 7:00 p.m. match against Penn College. The AMCC schedule for the Lady Lions gets rolling on Saturday, September 22 at Medaille College. They will play Medaille that morning before taking on Penn State Behrend in the afternoon.