KUTZTOWN, Pa. – The Kutztown University women’s volleyball team made strides last year on the backs of senior leadership and an influx of underclassmen. KU won more matches and shored up more areas than it had a year ago. KU returns the majority of that group in 2018, who aims to lead the program through its next stage of rebuilding – closing the gap and finishing matches on top against some of the top teams in the conference.
The Golden Bears won 10 matches last year and finished third in its four-team division in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). While its offensive leaders took their next step in progression on the outside, Kutztown welcomed a healthy freshmen class that earned their time on the floor and made immediate impacts throughout the season.
Kutztown graduated two seniors, including its starting setter, and looks to 2018 as a year of opportunity. Talented playmakers have furthered their progression another year and young players experienced a year of collegiate competition within KU’s style of offense. The next step for this group – close the gap and position itself to compete and win matches within the PSAC Southeast Division.
John Gump enters his 22nd year as head coach at Kutztown. The winningest coach in program history, Gump is encouraged with the progress he saw last year, but knows that taking the next step this season is pivotal for his program.
“We started to close the gap from 2016-to-17, but there were certainly opportunities still left out there for us,” Gump said. “We made progress with our players gaining another year within our system and with a high amount of our impact players returning, I think we are in a position to continue to close that gap.”
KU’s top-four offensive hitters all return this season, all of whom play on the outside. While production has increased from this group in the course of a year, the next step for Kutztown’s outside hitters to improve can actually come from a different position group.
Middle hitter is an area of great opportunity for Kutztown in 2018. KU graduated an all-conference middle hitter in 2015 and has yet to find the consistent production on the offensive end. KU brings five middle hitters into preseason camp, including two upperclassmen, with a focus on improving offensive efficiency within the group. Increased production from the middle can take pressure off the outside hitters and create more opportunities to score for the Golden Bears.
Defense was an area of significant improvement last year. Serve receive has been an area of focus for many years and Gump feels his group made great strides in having one of KU’s strongest defensive years of late.
“Having that same defensive group coming back and playing together for a second year will be very beneficial for us,” Gump said. “They should have a pretty good level of comfort with each other to allow us to get into our offensive sets more effectively. This is one of the deepest groups we’ve had in serve receive in a long time.”
West Chester looks to be strong once again as the two-time defending division champion and a returning NCAA Tournament team. With Cheyney bowing out of the PSAC, Millersville joins KU and ESU in the Southeast Division. Both the Warriors and Marauders graduate impact players, while Kutztown should feel confident in returning most of its production from last year.
Brittney Moyer (Orwigsburg, Pa./Blue Mountain (Lock Haven)) returns as a 1,000-kill outside hitter for her senior year as a team captain. Moyer has thrived since transferring from Lock Haven following her freshman year, earning KU’s Team MVP honors each of her two years in Maroon and Gold. She has posted 300+ kills each of the last two years and enters her senior season with 1,039 career kills, 740 of which have been at KU.
Moyer has taken a fair amount of swings over her career with more than 1,000 total attacks each of the last two seasons. While Gump feels that another 1,000-swing season could be in store for Moyer, adding a variety of new attacks could not only put an ease on Moyer’s right arm during the course of a long season, but could add a new, versatile look to the offense.
“Brittney has taken a lot of swings over her career. We are still looking for her to be our leader offensively, but are hoping to get her involved in some different ways,” Gump said. “We’re looking to add some back row swings for some of our bigger hitters on the left side and out of the middle on defense. We want to try and get them involved out of the back row, give some more diversity to our offense and hopefully create a situation where there are four hitters who opponents have to defend against instead of three.”
Holly Owen (Hatboro, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) started last year on the right side as a freshman, but saw a significant increase in production once Gump was able to work with his rotation and rotate Owen over to the left. Owen will be a featured left-side hitter for KU this season as a sophomore. She threw down 186 kills last year and finished the year with 10+ kills in 4-of-6 matches, earning her a PSAC Athlete of the Week honor.
Just as productive as Owen during her freshman season was Alli Henderson (Boalsburg, Pa./State College Area). Henderson started most of the year and was very productive early on, before suffering an injury midway through the year that limited her output down the stretch. She finished with 190 kills, third on the team, and gave KU an upgrade on serves (37 aces) and defense (272 digs – third on team).
Abby Daniels (Exton, Pa./Great Valley) battled through injuries last year, but stepped in late when Henderson went down and put up 10 kills in a match vs. Shippensburg.
Jessica Howe (Chambersburg, Pa./Chambersburg Area) moved to the right side for the first time at KU last year and turned in one of her most productive seasons. She was second on the team with 212 kills and has 601 for her career. With a full season of playing on the right side under her belt, look for KU’s other team captain to have another strong year.
Two freshmen will suit up behind Howe on the right side. Erin Patterson (Garnet Valley, Pa./Garnet Valley) has the ability to play on either side, but will use her club experience to add depth to KU’s right side for her freshman year. Shannon Robicheau (Easton, Pa./Lehigh Valley Charter HS for the Arts) also comes to KU for her freshman year and brings a versatile playing style that could potentially earn her opportunities.
Opportunities will be aplenty in the middle this season. Niki Carpenter (King of Prussia, Pa./Upper Merion Area) enters her senior year and with the most experience. She has 194 kills over her three years at KU and posted a career-best 0.87 kills/set last year. Eclipsing 1.0 kill/set can give Carpenter an increased role in the offense.
Taylor Brown (Dillsburg, Pa./Northern) returns as a junior with another year in the system. She’s played in 52 matches through her first two years and has added 114 blocks. Haylee Holsopple (Chambersburg, Pa./Chambersburg Area) is coming off an injury and is getting back in game shape and fellow sophomore Aly Bohman (Macungie, Pa./Emmaus) has continued to develop in her second year with the program.
Expected to immediately contend not only for playing time, but for starting time, is freshman Lilly Charlton (Landenberg, Pa./Avon Grove). While she may at times give up some size at 5-11, her speed on the frontline makes her a threat to come in and compete right away.
Abbey James (York, Pa./West York Area) and Amanda Meck (Fleetwood, Pa./Fleetwood Area) return as Kutztown’s two most-experienced setters this year. Running a 6-2, both posted 150+ assists last year and will be utilized throughout the year. James put up 274 assists as a freshman last year as KU’s No. 2 setter, as Meck followed with 186 in meaningful playing time.
Sarah Williams (Pikesville, Md./Home-School) enters her sophomore year with a year of experience and knowledge of the offense. Freshman Gianna Agosti (Nesquehoning, Pa./Marian Catholic) comes from a successful high school program, brings an athletic and fast skillset and will see opportunities as she adjusts to the tempo of a new, more complex offense.
Sydney Wilson (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) stepped in as KU’s starting libero as a freshman last year and put up historic numbers. She posted a KU freshman-record 582 digs, third all-time at KU, and also set a freshman record with 36 in a match. She also added 49 aces, eighth in school history. Wilson stood up to the challenge of growing as a player and defending multiple types of offenses in the PSAC and should have another strong year as a sophomore.
Sophie Kerschner (Clinton, N.J./North Hunterdon) returns as a junior after taking last year off. She had a solid freshman year in 2016 and will see opportunities as she gets back into the rhythm of playing. Senior Paige Miller (Halifax, Pa./Halifax (Harrisburg Area C.C)) also returns to add depth on the backline.
Freshman Tori Pascucci (Auburn, Pa./Schuylkill Haven Area) should compete for time right away. She is a hard-worker and has already impressed with her summer workouts.
Kutztown starts its season a week earlier than normal, due to the NCAA Championship Festival rotated to the fall season this year and adjusting postseason schedules. KU hosts its annual Kutztown Classic on Aug. 23-24, to kick off its 2018 campaign.
The Golden Bears open PSAC play at home on Friday, Sept. 14, play at home on Family Day (Sept. 29) and Homecoming (Oct. 13), are hosting a ‘Dig Pink’ event on Friday, Oct. 12, and have Senior Day scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27.