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Volleyball team hopes to continue postseason tradition
August 29, 2011Tweet
The 2011 edition of the Binghamton University volleyball team will have some large shoes to fill, as six seniors exited last May, a group that included all-time kills leader Michelle McDonough. Seven newcomers occupy 13th-year head coach Glenn Kiriyama’s roster, with just two seniors to navigate an inexperienced group through an arduous non-conference schedule. A young but eager group of six freshmen and one sophomore-transfer look to put their stamp on a successful volleyball program built by Kiriyama.
With the departure of five starters, some might see the 2011 season as a rebuilding year. However, over the past seven years Kiriyama has guided his teams to the America East tournament and he again sets that goal for this year’s team. On the heels of a disappointing showing in last year’s America East tournament, Kiriyama hopes the pain from the loss to UMBC in the semifinals will push his team further this season.
“Our goal is always to advance to the postseason,” Kiriyama said. “With a young team though it is going to be very tough early on, but we just have to keep working and get better as the season progresses.”
During Kiriyama’s seven-year run, he has won 56 America East games and two titles. Chosen as the preseason No. 1 in last year’s poll, the Bearcats fell a step short of the championship game. A thorn in the Bearcats’ paw, UMBC defeated Binghamton all three times they faced each other in 2010. A sign of respect for Kiriyama’s program, the America East coaches voted the Bearcats third in this year’s poll, even after losing six seniors. Binghamton earned one first-place vote, behind UMBC and defending champion Albany.
“There are a lot of question marks this year compared to teams in the past,” Kiriyama said. “We’ll be in flux here the first part of the season until the newcomers get comfortable and we figure out our rotations. Once that all comes together we could be a very competitive team.”
Chambers to lead setters
Senior Julie Chambers returns at the setter position for the Bearcats. After filling in for injured Lindsey Mueller last season, Chambers, the America East leader in assists with 9.82 per set, will have to quarterback two new outside hitters. With two first team all-conference hitters putting away her sets last year, Chambers earned America East Setter of the Week four times. Along with Chambers are freshmen Amanda Dettman from Milwaukee, and Alexa Zbytniewski from East Northport, N.Y.
Having an abundance of setters was a luxury Kiriyama did not have in 2010. Following a season-ending injury to 2009 America East tournament Most Outstanding Player Mueller, Kiriyama was left without a setter. Chambers, who had some experience at the position, was called on to fill in and gained a valuable year of court time. Now Kiriyama’s only problem will be deciding between a one-setter or two-setter system, with the emergence of Dettmann’s play during camp.
“The experience Julie (Chambers) gained last year really helped her,” stated Kiriyama. “She will see court time at setter and in the back row. She has improved in all facets of her game and will be a valuable component to our team this year.”
New group of hitters
Three new outside hitters will patrol the court for Kiriyama in 2011. After losing Michelle McDonough and Anna Leijna, the No. 1 and No. 3 all-time kills’ leaders with a combined 2,631 kills between the two, Kiriyama will move junior Iva Partaleva from the right side to outside. Partaleva, a junior who played her first season at Binghamton last year after transferring from JUCO Seminole State College, earned crucial experience in 2010, accumulating 51 kills, 63 digs and 10 service aces in just 50 sets of action.
Filling the shoes left behind by McDonough and Leijna are freshmen Kristin Hovie from Neenah, Wis., and Annelot Nieuwenhuis from Mauwee, Ohio. Along with the two freshmen is sophomore-transfer Shannon Bruno, who joined the Bearcats after spending her freshman year at Sacred Heart. Bruno, from Ardsley, N.Y., gives the Bearcats some added depth at a very thin position.
Ortiz to command back row
A position that had major questions in 2010 will be the only group not featuring multiple freshmen. Led by three returners including sophomore Xiomara Ortiz, the backline for the Bearcats should be the steadiest on the court. Ortiz, who played every match as a freshman, finished second in the America East in digs per set with 4.17. She was named to the America East all-rookie team and Rookie of the Week once. Ortiz will play a vital role in the success of the Bearcats.
“Xiomara (Ortiz) has improved quite a bit since last fall,” Kiriyama said. “She has extended her range in the back row and become a lot more vocal. Her advanced ability to read on defense will make her a factor in our serve/receive.”
Senior Jen Fiorentino, junior Jordyn Suhr and freshman Emily Litwin round out the defensive specialist group. Fiorentino saw action in 42 sets grinding out 44 digs. A tenacious worker who has upped her defensive game, she also has the ability to pass off digs that should ignite the offense. Suhr joined the team in 2010 after her play on the Binghamton Club squad impressed Kiriyama.
Trio of six-footers occupy the middle
Returning in the middle for Kiriyama will be junior middle blocker Alex Roland. The dynamic force in the middle for Binghamton finished the 2010 season fifth in the America East in blocks per set. The 2009 All-Rookie selection will look for help from sophomore middle hitter Grace Vickers. In limited action in 2010, Vickers earned some valuable playing experience that should bode well for her second collegiate season. Roland and Vickers will welcome the six-foot-three Jordan Snapp from Valparasio, Ind., to the middle. Snapp’s versatility gives Kiriyama the option of playing her in the middle or on the outside, contributing one way or another.