Experience to aid 2000 Beavers

By Tim Stried, SID
July 27, 2000

Second year head coach Sara Wakefield will send a 2000 Bluffton College volleyball squad onto the court with seven returning varsity performers and several talented newcomers this season as the Beavers aim to return to the 20-win plateau and a run at the Heartland Conference title. In doing so, BC will also look to secure a high seed in the HCAC tournament, which comes to Founders Hall this season the first weekend in November.

In 1999 Bluffton finished 14-20 overall and graduated three talented seniors. Dena Eichelberger graduated with 1,144 career digs, while two 5-11 hitters, Shannon Hedrick and Sheryl Cunningham, combined for 772 kills and 290 blocks in their careers at BC.

"We lost a lot of leadership in those three athletes," said Wakefield. "They had solid stats, but more importantly they had a lot of court leadership."

However, a host of returning varsity players are eager to take on that leadership role. "We have a lot of varsity experience coming back," analyzed Wakefield looking at a 2000 roster filled with seven returning varsity players, "and I'm counting on big things from them."

Seniors Alison Harrer and Betsy Hook have three years of varsity experience, while 1999 first team All-HCAC selection Mandy Pequignot leads a group of four juniors. Harrer has 431 career kills and 542 career digs, while Hook has recorded 612 kills and 367 blocks in her career. Last season as a sophomore Pequignot collected a team-high 303 kills and a 23.9 hitting percentage to go with 258 digs and 65 blocks.

Senior Beth Weidus rang up a team-high 39 kills in 1999 and is back with 106 career kills and 304 career digs. Juniors Erica Jellison, Jaime Frisk and Lisa Rathburn are also all back. Jellison took over the setting duties shortly into the 1999 season and finished with 745 assists, while Frisk has 415 digs in two years of varsity work and Rathburn 304 digs in one year of action.

Hosting the HCAC tournament is already proving to be a bright spot on the 2000 schedule. "That will give us more motivation to have a higher seed in the tournament," said Wakefield. "And certainly playing a few more home matches will be exciting to have the home crowd behind us."

A talented freshman class also has Wafefield excited about the 2000 campaign. "There's a lot of talent there, especially in the hitters," she said in analyzing her first recruiting class. "There's a possibility they can fill in some of the key positions on the varsity level."