2001 record-setters gone, but Wakefield returns five letterwinners ready to become HCAC contenders in 2002By Tim Stried, SID
August 2, 2002
|Junior Erin Cooper (left) and senior Janelle Beck return for Bluffton in 2002. Both
were versatile contributers last season and are among five returning letterwinners
The headlines following the 2001 volleyball season at Bluffton College focused on four players that ended the season with their names listed in the career record book among the best players in school history. The reality heading into the 2002 season, however, is that those four players all graduated.
Head coach Sara Wakefield returns two starters and five letterwinners to form the nucleus of her squad this season, which must first replace those four talented seniors from a year ago, then set out to remain as one of the upper-half teams in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Bluffton's 3-3 record in the HCAC last season tied for fourth place as the Beavers finished 10-23 overall. BC posted huge home court wins over talented squads from Anderson and Thomas More and finished with a winning record at home (3-2) and led the conference in digs with 25.3 per game.
For coach Wakefield and her 2002 squad, however, the focus will be to take a step forward to bringing the program back to the winning ways it experienced in last two decades as the Beavers went to three NCAA national tournaments in the 1990's and were the HCAC runners-up in 1998. Since the HCAC was founded in 1998, the Beavers own a 13-11 conference record, which ranks as the fourth-highest win total among league members.
Last year's senior class had quite a bit to do with those wins, as defensive specialists Jaime Frisk and Lisa Rathburn along with setter Erica Jellison and outside hitter Mandy Pequignot will be missed. Pequignot was a three-time first-team All-HCAC selection and set BC records for career kills per game (2.80, 1,167 total) and hitting percentage (.252). Jellison was a three-year starter and ranks second in career assists (2,728) and joined the 1,000 dig club along with Rathburn. Frisk, who collected 1,299 digs in her career, was a four-year starter and ranked among the national leaders last season with 5.27 digs per game (617 total).
Back for 2002 are two returning starters and a strong supporting cast, led by senior Janelle Beck and three players that played in all 33 matches and 121 games last season. Aside from that experience, however, Coach Wakefield's squad will be young. Just one senior and two juniors are on the roster that will be made up predominantly of underclassmen.
Beck's versatility will be counted on this season as the younger players find their strengths and the freshmen fill into their roles on the squad. A 5-8 outside hitter, Beck proved her ability as a hitter as a sophomore with 85 kills, but spent much of her time last year as a defensive specialist where she totaled 286 digs, which ranked sixth on the team and is second among returning players. Beck's 22 aces last season ranked fourth on the squad and are tops among returning players.
Three players return that didn't miss a single game in 2001, including returning starters junior Erin Cooper and sophomore Courtney Tisher along with sophomore Jill Rothe.
Cooper, a 5-6 defensive specialist, ranked fourth on the team in digs with 418 and proved to be a versatile player with 40 kills, 29 assists, 21 service aces and 11 blocks. Her dig total ranked fourth on the team last year and is tops among returning players, while her ace total is second among returning players.
|Sophomore Courtney Tisher collected 217 kills last season, the third-most ever at
Bluffton by a freshman. She ranked sixth in the HCAC in blocks.
Tisher, a 5-8 middle hitter, ranked sixth in the HCAC last season with .77 blocks per game as she collected a team-high 93 rejections. Her 217 kills were second on the team and are the third-highest total ever by a freshman at Bluffton (Deb Wagner Hucke had 258 in 1986 and Erin Kreigh had 218 in 1992).
Rothe, a 5-9 middle hitter, ranked fourth on the team in kills with 164, which is the seventh-highest total by a freshman, and added 59 blocks, 186 digs and nine aces.
Three other players with varsity experience also return, including junior Jenae Meck and sophomores Erin Kreim and Kelly Kettinger.
Meck, a 6-0 middle hitter, ranked fourth on the team in blocks last season with 51 and ranked fifth in kills with 115 despite missing several matches with an injury. Now with two years of varsity experience, she will be counted on to be a force at the net.
Kreim and Kettinger both saw action in 10 matches and 28 games last season, providing support in the serve and back row rotation. Kreim totaled six aces and 38 digs, while Kettinger provided three aces and 34 digs. Both were the leaders of the junior varsity squad.
Wakefield's talented recruiting class will be counted on to add support to the veterans when pre-season camp opens in Founders Hall on August 17. The Beavers get the 2002 season started at the Kalamazoo Invitational August 30 and 31.