Season Preview: Volleyball eyes another Centennial tournament berth

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College volleyball team will look to qualify for the Centennial Conference tournament for the 14th consecutive season in 2013.

The Fords finished with the second-highest win total overall in the conference last season with several freshmen playing prominent roles. Gaining value experience against top-notch competition, Haverford rounded into form as the season progressed with the Fords accounting for Franklin & Marshall's lone regular-season conference setback. Motivated by the victory over F&M -- the eventual Centennial Conference tournament host -- the Fords swept past Gettysburg College in the opening round of the conference playoffs on Nov. 1 to avenge a 3-1 regular-season loss to the Bullets on Sept. 29.

Haverford ranked second in the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.135) in 2012 and it will look to continue that commitment to defense this season with junior Madison Fuelling leading the way. Fuelling ranked third in the conference in digs (4.51 per set) and also contributed 31 service aces. Aiding the defensive effort will be junior Sarah Brody and sophomore Nina Mutty. Mutty finished second on the team in digs while also proving to be a weapon on offense with 35 service aces and 226 kills.

Only three players in the Centennial went over 300 kills last year and two of them wore Haverford uniforms. Sophomore Meg O'Day will look to follow up on stellar freshman campaign that saw the middle hitter pace the conference in hitting percentage (.345) while registering 342 kills. Joining O'Day as a threat on offense will be sophomore Keri Godbe. The outside hitter finished 10th in the conference in point production while also amassing 330 kills.

Setter Olivia Walsh will orchestrate the attack with newcomer Abby Keller. Walsh was one of four freshmen to see significant time last season as she topped the team and conference with 1,024 assists (9.39 per set).

Head coach Michele Benoit expects freshmen Val Courouble and Keller, accomplished players on the AAU circuit, to be newcomers to watch while sophomores Jeanna Kenney and Sara Rennert, along with freshmen Elena Garcia and Kaylynn Mayo, will provide depth.

Haverford, picked fourth in the preseason poll of conference coaches, once again has its eye on a spot in the conference tournament. "We are returning a key core of team members that had much success last season and have a talented group of newcomers to add to the depth of the team," said third-year coach Benoit.

A challenging non-conference schedule begins with the Haverford Invitational on Aug. 31. The Fords will test themselves against Catholic University, a Landmark Conference finalist last season, and Eastern University, a perennial NCAA contender, on the opening weekend, and later will also see the University of Massachusetts Boston, Moravian College and Messiah College over the course of the non-conference campaign.

The journey to a spot in the conference tournament for the 14th consecutive season begins on Sept. 14 with a home matchup against Dickinson College. After a date with Gettysburg College on Sept. 28, Haverford will see the other 2012 semifinalists—Franklin & Marshall College (Oct. 5), Johns Hopkins University (Oct. 18) and Swarthmore College (Oct. 26)—throughout a grueling October slate.

"We are expecting this season to hold many challenges to prepare us for the competitiveness of our conference and hopefully make another run in the conference tournament," offered Benoit.