2014 Volleyball Season Preview Series - Top DII ReturnersAugust 15, 2014
The 2014 NJCAA Division II Volleyball season is right around the corner and teams across the map are preparing for what should be a highly competitive year. Some of the top players from 2013 are back on campus and ready to utilize a year’s worth of improvement to take their program to the next level.
Click here for complete listing of top returning players by District.
After an exhilarating season offensively in 2013, the same can be expected for the upcoming year as some of the nation’s top scorers have returned for their sophomore campaign. In all, 235 student-athletes return to the front row in 2014 after playing in at least 30 sets as a freshman.
Headlining the group is the top-scorer from last season in outside hitter Mattie Gray. Moving over to Iowa Central from Southeastern (Iowa), the Tritons are looking forward to having the
6-foot offensive weapon on their side of the net this season. Gray led the country with 5.82 kills per set in 2013, complimented by her 2.88 digs per set.
Two other returning players registered at least four kills per set last season. Hagerstown (Md.) outside hitter Peyton Wallech is back for the Hawks after ranking fifth in the land with 4.45 kills per set in 2013. Outside hitter Brandie Jones returns to Muskegon (Mich.) with an average of 4.22 kills per set – ranking eighth in the nation last year.
Other top returning players of note from attacking positions include North Dakota SCS outside hitter Morgan Hensch, Ancilla (Ind.) middle blocker Amber Redinger and outside hitter Shanna Witt (right) from defending national champion Cowley County (Kan.).
As much skill as this year’s returning attackers bring back to DII, there could be even more talent in place at the setter position. After playing in at least 30 sets last season, 57 setters are back for their second season.
Muskegon will have Jones’ offensive punch back this season but it could be the returning director of the attack that could be a difference maker in 2014. Recording 10.71 assists per set in her freshman year, setter Meghan Birr ranked fourth in the nation in passing and leads all returning players coming into this season. Birr also displayed some defensive prowess with 2.54 digs and 0.48 blocks per set on the year.
Brooke Robertson will be back in action for Central (Neb.) this year after showcasing her passing skills as a freshman. Robertson averaged 10.58 assists per set in 2013, leading the Raiders to a 33-11 record and the District G title.
Three other setters will be back for their respective teams in 2014 after averaging at least 10 assists per set last year, including – Kortney Blaufuss from Fort Scott (Kan.), Kara Russell from Iowa Central and Kansas City Kansas’ Lily Thornberg.
Other top returning setters of note include Megan Kolness of North Dakota SCS, Madison Pogue of Catawba Valley (N.C.) and Ciarra Wirick (right) from Owens (Ohio).
LIBEROS & DEFENSIVE SPECIALISTS
The returning offensive leaders will provide their teams with the potential to put up points but that will be counteracted by the sensational defensive players that are returning. On the back row, 80 liberos and defensive specialists are back after playing in at least 30 sets last year.
After ranking second in the country last season with 7.91 digs per set, Rachel Suttee is looking forward to her second season at Northern Virginia. After anchoring her team’s 30-10 season in 2013, Suttee will look to take Northern Virginia one step further this season after falling one win short of the national tournament.
Rounding out the top five of last season’s dig leaders, Lauren Pederson (right) is eagerly anticipating her second year at Dakota (N.D.). Averaging 6.97 digs per set, Pederson was the backbone of the Lumberjacks’ back row in 2013.
Of the returning setters, Carly Henkenberns of Cincinnati State (Ohio) and Rebecca Garrison from Vincennes (Ind.) round out the four players that recorded at least six digs per set in 2013. Henkenberns averaged 6.81 digs per set – ranking sixth in the nation – while Garrison cracked the top 20 with 6.04 digs per set.
Other top returning players of note include liberos Amanda Johnson from Scottsdale (Ariz.), Carly Butler from Sinclair (Ohio) and Alyssa Serewicz from Elgin (Ill.).
COMPLETE LISTING OF TOP DII RETURNERS
Click each District (Letter) for complete listing of top returning players.