Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 Wilkes Women’s Volleyball Preview: Experience Returns

Photo Courtesy of Wilkes Sports Information
WILKES-BARRE – The 2017 Wilkes University women’s volleyball team returns 10 players to the program as it strives to return to the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Freedom tournament after missing out the past two years. The Lady Colonels finished 12-21 overall and 2-5 in the MAC Freedom a season ago.

Joseph Czopek enters his sixth season as head coach with 64-94 overall record. Wilkes was selected to finish seventh in the conference by the coaches in last week’s preseason poll, but Czopek is excited for his team’s chances at competing for a tournament spot. “Every season I expect the MAC Freedom to challenge our strengths as a team, as indicated by our preseason ranking,” Czopek explained. “But earning a postseason spot is always realistic having been there three times over the last five seasons.”

Sophomore opposite Jamey Mikovich will be leaned on to provide offense for the team after an impressive freshman season when she was named Honorable Mention All-MAC Freedom. She led the team with 262 kills, was second in blocks with 64, and was third in digs with 245. Senior outside hitter Grace Boyle also returns as a key offensive contributor after starting 26 of the 33 matches last season and posting 203 kills. That duo will take sets from senior Alexis Morgan after she was fourth in the MAC Freedom with 813 assists last fall.

Czopek expects senior opposite/outside hitter Madison Scarfaro and senior middle hitter Kayley Schinski to control the front line of defense at the net after Scarfaro was fourth in the MAC Freedom with 78 blocks in 2016n while Schinski returns to the program after posting 36 blocks in 2015. Sophomore defensive specialist Juliet Betke led the team with 338 digs as a freshman last season.

Also returning and looking to improve on last season’s playing experience are junior defensive specialist Shayna Fehrle, and sophomores defensive specialist Julie Murphy, middle hitter Michele Natale, and outside hitter Alex Ferrier.

Opposite Christie Challenger heads up the four-member freshman recruiting class that Czopek has brought in. “All four freshmen recruits are bringing their strengths to our program,” Czopek noted. “Last minute recruit Christie Challenger has performed well during summer camp and continues to improve her offensive abilities.”

Joining Challenger in the freshman class are outside hitter Tara Sayles, outside hitter Kristie Najdek, and setter Erin Silverman.

The Lady Colonels will be challenged early in the season as they play 16 of their first 18 matches away from the Marts Center. “Being on the road for all except two weekday conference matches in September could be very taxing on the team, but should develop a strong team chemistry,” Czopek said. “October is the reverse with only two conference matches on the road while we enjoy playing in front of our home fans the entire month.”

Wilkes starts its 2017 season with a trip to play in the Puerto Rico Clasico in San Juan where they will play four matches total this Saturday and Sunday, September 1st and 2nd. The first home action of the season also marks the start of MAC Freedom play when the Lady Colonels face Eastern on Wednesday, September 13 at 7:00 p.m. The Colonel Clash Tournament will be held on Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 inside the Marts Center. “This year's Colonel Clash Tournament will be challenging to all teams competing, and a great competition to prepare us for the November MAC Freedom Tournament.”

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