Aug. 12, 2003
Coming off a 2002 season in which the Villanova women's volleyball team went 18-16 overall and recorded their first winning season in five years, expectations are high for head coach Allison Keeley's 2003 squad. With just one starter lost to graduation (outside hitter Leah Mathews), a solid foundation of experienced veterans coupled with an extremely talented freshman class hopes to lead the Wildcats back to the Big East Tournament.
One of Villanova's strengths lies in the talent and depth of their middle hitters. Leading the way will be junior Kerri Sullivan, who is one of the most consistent performers in the conference. Sullivan will look to better her team-high 481 kills and 92 blocks in 2002. Joining Sullivan on the attack will be junior Katie Lanting (292 kills and 86 blocks) and sophomore Megan Abbott (163 kills and 65 blocks). Freshman Adrian Semrau, who possesses great size and strength will also compete for playing time in the middle.
The Wildcats also boast a talented corps of outside hitters to add to their potent offensive attack. Fifth-year senior and co-captain Erin Birunas looks to shoulder the load of the departed Mathews. Birunas finished the 2002 season third on the team with 299 kills to go along with 166 digs and 47 blocks. Playing opposite Birunas will be sophomore Celine Nyugen, who is fully healed from last year's knee injury. Nguyen is a dynamic attacker and a solid defender, who recorded 240 digs in just 71 games a year ago. Solidifying the right side will be senior Kate Tucker, sophomore Dana Kabashima, who is an outstanding backcourt player as well as a consistent blocker, and freshman Jessica Hoover.
Two extremely talented and experienced setters in senior Jennifer Edwards and junior Jenny Badran-Grycan return for the Wildcats. Edwards paced the squad with 725 assists, while Badran-Grycan also hit the 700 plateau as both players averaged nearly six assists per game. Also looking to see time at the setter position are newcomers Jennifer Lalli and Kelly Ludwig. Lalli is a highly skilled setter who will gain valuable experience this season. Ludwig also has played at hitter and will push for time at right side while she works her way into the setting rotation.
Anchoring a defense that averaged close to 17 digs a game, will be junior co-captain Sam Hartwell and sophomore Megan Bye. Hartwell tallied 151 digs in 83 games last season and Bye chipped in with 111 in 58 contests.
Villanova will spend the early portion of the season on the road, competing in tournaments at Maryland, George Washington and Colorado. The Wildcats host their own tournament with Pennsylvania, Manhattan and University of Maryland Baltimore Country on Sept. 19-20 at Jake Nevin Gymnasium. A southern swing breaks up the middle of the season, with matches against Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida International. Villanova concludes the regular season with a five-game home stretch, which features conference matches against St. John's, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Connecticut.