2009 Volleyball Preview
Beavers have tools in place to compete for HCAC championship
August 13, 2009
By: Erin Neal, sports information assistant
|As the Bluffton University volleyball team prepares for the 2009 season, fifth-year head coach Steve Yarnell is looking to build on the success of the record-setting 2008 season. The 2008 squad finished 21-10 overall, compiling more wins than the Beavers had in the two previous seasons combined. They also finished 5-3 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference while putting together a spotless record (9-0) at home in Founders Hall. The Beavers' 2008 season was their best campaign since 1998.|
The team had a significant spring season, picking up right where it left off following the successful run in 2008. Because Bluffton did not lose any players to graduation, the Beavers will depend greatly on the consistency, experience and leadership of the 14 returners: comprised of two seniors, five juniors and seven sophomores.
Leading the offensive attack for the Beavers is a plethora of hitters, all returnees from the 2008 season. Standout sophomore Jenna Eshleman (Landisville, Penn./Hempfield) led the offense with a team-high 314 kills (2.96 kpg) and her .218 hitting percentage earned her first team All-HCAC and All-Freshman Team honors. Likewise, sophomore Nicole Wood (Tiffin/Hopewell-Loudon) is also expected to be a top contributor on Bluffton's front line. After an injury sidelined her for the early part of the 2008 season, Wood finished with a .213 hitting percentage while being the only Beaver selected to the 2008 HCAC All-Tournament Team. Rounding out the Beavers' attack is 2007 all-conference honoree junior Kayla Pickering (Jamestown/Greenview), power right-side junior hitter Allison Streicher (Continental/Continental) and senior Michele Rosen (Harrison/Harrison).
|2009 features another challenging non-league schedule that will help prepare the Beavers for Heartland Conference action. Coach Yarnell and his 2009 Beavers will travel to Dominican University near Chicago, Illinois to start the campaign. Continuing through the month of September, the team will also participate in tournaments at Kenyon College and HCAC foe Mt. St. Joseph. The Beavers also relish the opportunity to face nine-time defending Ohio Athletic Conference champion Ohio Northern in Founders Hall on Sept. 16. Bluffton's beefed up slate includes five other OAC teams: Marietta, Otterbein, Baldwin Wallace, John Carroll, and Wilmington before HCAC action kicks into high gear. The Founders Hall faithful will be counted on to push the Beavers toward another perfect home record as Bluffton again hosts nine matches this season, including contests against HCAC rivals Mt. St. Joseph, Hanover, Anderson, and Defiance.|
Excited about the season and all the opportunities, the team is working towards a first-ever conference championship and ensuring a spot in the HCAC post-season tournament for the second year in a row. "Experience is definitely something we have to our advantage," Yarnell stated. Bluffton's 10-2 mark down the stretch in 2008, including wins over Findlay, Hanover and Defiance, has the Beavers believing that a Heartland Conference championship and invitation to the NCAA tournament are within reach when Bluffton hits the floor in 2009.