WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The 2017 Williams College volleyball team will have a ton of potential.
"I've been very fortunate to have several close-knit, great teams here," Ephs' head coach Christi Kelsey said. "But this team has a special chemistry that the first-years have already added to. Everyone has bought into the fact that everyone of this team will have a leadership role."
Kelsey, back for her ninth season at the helm of the program, will have five juniors, four sophomores and five first-years on her 14-women roster. With the grduation of AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and NESCAC Player of the Year Tori Jasuta and libero Catie Bennell, the Ephs will be counting on junior Ally Ostrow, an All-NESCAC selection herself in 2016 who was second on the squad with 215 kills and third with 323 digs. Junior opposite hitter Roxi Corbeil also returns after 175 kills and a .199 hitting percentage a year ago. Junior Morgan Richman played in all 24 matches last season and all but one set, finishing with 75 kills, 20 digs and seven assists while leading the team with 35 total blocks.
The remaining juniors are Tess Richman and Mia Weinland. Tess Richman played in three matches in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury and Weinland was out the entire year recovering from an injury.
All four sophomores saw significant time last year when the Ephs finished 13-11 overall and 6-4 in conference play. Setter Alex Newton averaged 8.88 assists per set and finished with 817 while contributing 24 service aces. Defensive specialist Daiana Takashima was fourth on the team in digs with 218, outside hitter Erin Denham notched 51 kills and 18 digs while outside hitter Natalie Albright finished fourth in the squad with 107 kills and was second on the team with 25 blocks.
"Again, first and foremost I think we're going to have great team chemistry," Kelsey said. "I think any time you start with that foundation, your skill set and talent only add to it. The fact that we do have a lot of versatility both on offense and defense is a great boost. So our job is a coaching staff is to take these 14 pieces and put them together in the best possible way. I think everyone will have important roles."
"They are going to make an impact as a class right away," Kelsey said. "But they are also going to add some important depth. So far in preseason they have been 100 percent on board and invested in our team culture and core values."
Williams will open its season on the road at Vassar College Wednesday at 7 p.m. From there the Ephs head to the Union Invitational before coming home for their only two matches in Chandler Gymasium in the month of September on the 15th and 16th. October's home slate features important conference matches against Amherst and Trinity before welcoming the New England Challenge and nine matches (3 for the Ephs) over two days on October 20th and 21st.
"We have some challenges in terms of being on the road a lot in September," Kelsey said. "But it's exciting to spend nearly the entire month of October at home with some really good conference match-ups and of course, hosting the New England Challenge."
The NESCAC has only become a deeper conference from top to bottom, Kelsey noted, making each conference match-up an important one.
"I think the NESCAC is probably in one of the best places it has ever been in terms of competitiveness from top to bottom," Kelsey said. "There will be a lot of high level volleyball and it will be exciting to see how the conference season unfolds all the way to the end. I'm excited about this team's potential. I think we're going to learn a lot about ourselves as we go but this group is very committed to the process of finding out how good we can be."