2003 Volleyball Outlook
The Retrievers believe that a new leader on the bench and a new conference affiliation will be the fresh start that they need in 2003. Veteran coach Greg Giovanazzi will lead the Retrievers into their inaugural season in the America East Conference.
"I am extremely excited about receiving this opportunity," Giovanazzi said. "This is a program that is already in good shape. We have a large returning class as well as a large group of newcomers this season. My immediate goal will be to make sure that the two sectors can mesh into one strong unit. I think it will be nice for our freshmen to enter the season without having a great deal of pressure because of the experienced nucleus that we have coming back."
The returning cast of seven players is indeed a strong one, and are an extremely versatile group. They will be supported by an exciting recruiting class that will include seven new faces. Six of the seven returners have experience as starters, but Giovanazzi expects the freshmen to challenge the holdovers for some starting spots and significant playing time immediately.
If healthy, senior middle blocker Jennifer Davis, junior outside hitter Jocelyn Teoh, and sophomore setter Megan Gross will open the season in the starting line-up. Sophomore Christine Skala, juniors Julia Waclawiak and Tauna Woolery, and senior Colleen Morton will also challenge for starting nods.
Davis, who will be the Retrievers' sole captain in 2003, was named to the First Team All-NEC squad and was a First Team District II Verizon Academic All-American in 2002 after averaging 2.69 kills per game. Davis possesses a strong all-around game and is a tremendous leader. "Jennifer leads by example and plays with a certain calmness that exudes confidence," Giovanazzi says. "I really like her play at the net and I think she is very underated in the backcourt. She has the ability to hit a variety of sets which puts a lot of pressure on the other team."
The multi-talented Teoh enjoyed a sensational freshman season in 2001, earning NEC Newcomer of the Year honors. However, a pre-season shoulder injury forced her to miss much of the 2002 campaign. Now fully recovered, Teoh (2.80 kills per game, .366 hitting percentage in 2002) is expected to be the Retrievers top player in 2003 and the plan is to convert her from the middle to an outside hitter spot. "Jocelyn can play for any team in the country and is one of the best skilled players that I have ever coached," Giovanazzi claims. "She has been a great quick hitter, but we need to get her the ball more often as an outside player."
Gross (6.55 assists per game) exhibited plenty of potential last season as a freshman, sharing the setting duties with the departed Heather Hollidge. The job is hers now, and Giovanazzi is extremely excited about putting the Retrievers' offense in her hands. "I thought Megan was ready to be our primary setter last season," Giovanazzi stated. "She is very calm, extremely skilled, and is an excellent communicator. There is no mystery to her game which is very comforting to a coach."
Skala, Woolery, Waclawiak, and Morton will each have a bit more to prove than the aformentioned trio during the pre-season. Giovanazzi is hoping that Skala (2.83 kpg.) has recovered from a painful toe injury that has hampered her a bit in the off-season. If so, he expects her to compete for a starting spot at either an outside hitter spot or possibly as the libero. "Christine received a great deal of playing time as a freshman and that should give her a big advantage this season," said Giovanazzi. "She is a very fiery, competitive player who pushes herself to get better." Waclawiak (2.72 kpg.) is coming off a knee injury and Giovanazzi is hoping that she can be a key contributor in 2003. "Julia will help us a lot if she can return to the way that she played the first half of last season," said Giovanaazi. "Julia has a really explosive arm and has the ability to terminate the ball," he added. Giovanazzi believes that Woolery (team leading 56 service aces) is one of the most skilled players on the team and is valuable because she can play several positions on the floor. According to Giovanazzi, Morton had a very good spring and demonstrated to him that she is a very good blocker and has a solid attack game. Morton, who missed the entire 2002 season with a leg injury could initially replace Teoh in the middle, but will be pushed by the freshmen as the season goes along.
Giovanazzi is extremely excited about his freshmen class and believes that several of them will fight for starting jobs. Britany Hodson is an experienced, well-conditioned player, and will see action at an outside hitter position. Julia Hood and Amy Starosta will also compete for time as outside hitters. Hood, who can also play the middle, is very strong and moves well, while Starosta is a very steady player, who will offer the team great shot selection on the leftside. Andrea Clarke is a very athletic player who can play the libero position, and will also serve as the Retrievers back-up setter. Melissa Golob, Emily Berman, and Jesie Folk will also be valuable additions. Golob is a defensive specialist, while Berman and Folk will fill in as middle blockers. Berman, who possesses a strong arm, can also play the outside and Folk is regarded as a true middle.
"Our goal this season is to win the America East tournament and make the NCAA Tournament," Giovanazzi admitted. "It has been my experience that the team playing the best at the end of the season has won the tournament. We would like to win as many regular-season matches as we can, but it would be my hope that we will be playing our best at the end of the season."