Thursday, September 1, 2016

2016 Lycoming volleyball preview: Reaping the rewards

Senior Lauren Fink and the Warriors open the 2016 season at Scranton on Thursday.
(Image Courtesy of Lycoming Athletics)
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – As the Lycoming College volleyball team’s six seniors enter their final campaign, they will have a chance to leave their marks all over the college’s record book. Three of them – Lauren Fink (York, Pa./West York),Kristine Jahn (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) and Maggie Slawson (Armagh, Pa./United) are already in the top 15 in program history in kills and a fourth, Tayler Whitman (New Cumberland, Pa./Cedar Cliff) has more than 100 blocks.

Lycoming has advanced to two MAC Commonwealth Championship tournaments and posted a 60-42 (.588) during their careers. However, after missing the tournament for the first time in four years in 2015, the Warriors have reloaded with a seven-member recruiting class, while five starters and the starting libero all return, giving the team one of its deepest rosters in the tenure of 16th-year head coach Tim McMahon when it opens its season on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Scranton.

“We have a good incoming freshman class and great senior leadership,” McMahon said. “The nice part about it is that with the incoming freshmen, we have basically loaded every position. We now have talent more than one deep at every position. That will be a big asset for the team, both in practice and in conference play.”

Outside Hitters

As they enter their senior years, Fink and Slawson have combined to become one of the most dangerous 1-2 hitting combinations in program history, as both are within 300 kills of reaching the top 10 in program history.

Fink, a 5-9 team captain that mixes power with finesse, is one of the team’s best all-around players. She finished second in the conference with 0.53 aces per set as a junior while also finishing 18th in the conference with 2.26 kills and 13th with 3.13 digs per set. Fink is already seventh in school history with 166 career aces and 13th with 1016 digs.

“Lauren is a solid all-around player,” McMahon said. “She has great court awareness. She moves well to the ball and elevates on her hits, so she gives herself an opportunity with every swing. I see that continuing this year.”

Slawson, a 5-8 hitter that has a powerful swing and is also a heady, smart player, averaged a career-best 2.14 kills per set and hit .152 in 2015, while also adding 2.48 digs per set.

Freshmen Darci Warriner (Wellsboro, Pa./Wellsboro Area) and Lilly Singleton (Hanover, Pa./Delone Catholic) give the team added versatility at the position and the 5-11 Whitman can also move from the middle to an outside hitting slot if needed.

Middle Hitters
After a solid freshman year as the team’s second middle hitter, sophomore Cheyenne Altland (East Berlin, Pa./Delone Catholic) appears poised to take over the first slot that was vacated by three-time All-MAC Commonwealth selectionBethany Richardson ’16. The 5-9 hitter averaged 1.76 kills per set and hit .204 while also adding 0.45 blocks per set as a rookie.

“Cheyenne developed her quickness and speed over the summer,” McMahon said. “She is getting to the ball faster and I see her being an asset to a lot quicker tempo game.”

Whitman, a team captain, started all 35 matches as a middle hitter, after averaging 1.68 kills and 1.18 digs per set. The 5-11 middle also has the ability to notch blocks, leading the team with 0.54 as a sophomore.

Freshman Alysa McDevitt (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood) gives the team added depth, as the 6-1 middle will compete for time immediately.

“With Taylor, Cheyenne, Alyssa and Katie, we can go big if we need to,” McMahon said.

Right Side Hitters
One of the team’s most dependable hitters since her freshman year, Jahn gives the team one of its most powerful hitters.

As a junior, she averaged 2.09 kills per set and a .205 hitting percentage and during her sophomore year, Jahn led the team with 3.04 kills per set. The 5-11 team captain has already racked up 726 career kills, leaving her just 24 away from becoming the 13th player in program history to reach 750.

Sophomore Taylor Johnsonbaugh (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) also returns with a year in the system and could see more time on the court, while 6-2 freshman Katie Hausknecht (Emmaus, Pa./Emaus) will likely see playing time immediately.

“Kristine Jahn is a solid hitter and as long as she stays healthy, I see her contributing,” McMahon said. “Katie Hausknecht, a 6-2 left-hander is hitting the ball at about 9 or 9 ½ feer pretty consistently. She is just developing her speed and timing. When that comes on, she is definitely going to be an asset. Taylor Johnsonbaugh became a very smart hitter in the offseason. She worked hard in the spring. She is getting better shots and moving better this year.”

With a two-time all-conference selection returning in junior Catherine Burger (Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford), the team’s setting position was already in good hands, but the addition of freshman Emily Morris (Lake Ronkonoma, N.Y./Sachem North) gives the team even more lineup options.

Burger, a team captain that was a Second Team All-MAC Commonwealth selection in 2015, has notched more than 1,000 sets in both of her first two years in the program. As a sophomore, she finished second in the conference with 9.79 assists per set while she also added 40 aces and 2.01 digs per set.

“We have to get Cat running the quicker tempo more consistently,” McMahon said. “We have been giving her a lot of reps at that. Emily Morris is also a step quicker getting to the ball defensively and that is changing the tempo of the game. It is making us a better team because Cat has to push more.”

Senior Hannah Vile (Sheffield, Pa./Sheffield Area) will also compete for playing time at the position when she returns from an injury.

Defensive Specialists
After leading the team with 4.59 digs per set in 2015, sophomore Emily Hepner (Leesport, Pa./Schuylkill Valley) appears set for a second season as the team’s starting libero. After a summer of working out, Hepner has returned in great shape and ready to continue her development as libero.

Senior Haley Deibert (Herndon, Pa./Tri-Valley) will continue to serve as a defensive specialist, as she notched 1.05 digs and served as a receiving specialist for the team in 2015.

Freshmen Lindsay Beck (Quakertown, Pa./Quakertown Community), Anslee Walk (Tyrone, Pa./Tyrone Area), Singleton and Warriner can all also see time on the back row, giving the team plenty of options for substitutions when needed.

Junior Krystle Mummert (Glenolden, Pa./Interboro) and Taryn Wojnar (Mountain Top, Pa./Crestwood) will also compete for time in the back row.

“We have four or five options on serve receive, where I can get the bigs out if I need to,” McMahon said, “and that is a big change.”

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