WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- Late summer is filled with optimism across college campuses around the country. It's no different in the Chandler Gym on the campus of Williams College as the volleyball team regroups after authoring one of the most thrilling seasons in Williams history, one which saw the Ephs finish 28‐5, win their second straight NESCAC Tournament title, repeat as host for an NCAA Regional and advance to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual national runner‐up Emory in the national quarterfinal.
Head coach Christi Kelsey (7th year, 126-57, .689 win pct.) has asked her team to turn the page on 2014. Together, this group now focuses on the task of coming together to build a team that will face the challenges that lie ahead in the 2015 season.
"Each year, we really ask our group to focus on the moment at hand," she said. "The past is certainly a great learning experience and one that can help us in terms of growth and experience as a program. However, everything has to be tuned in to what is happening in the present. Nothing is ever guaranteed just because of past success. It's a clean slate and a new beginning for every team across the country. Our goal is to see just what we can build together from now until mid‐November."
Williams will welcome back nine returning players overall from the squad a year ago. Its senior class and tri‐captains, Ryan Farley, Catherine Egan and Katherine Lane will lead the Ephs. Adding to the strength of the leadership of the senior class will be a strong group of juniors including Tori Jasuta, Anna Spellman, Caitie Benell and Funmi Adejobi as well as sophomores Shelby Fisher and Elizabeth Cromack.
Both Jasuta (Second Team) and Farley (Honorable Mention) were selected as AVCA All-Americans last season as well as All-New England and All-NESCAC. Jasuta led NESCAC in kills per set last year with 3.85 and she tallied 385 kills on the year, second highest total in NESCAC. Jasuta's 3.53 digs per set is tied for ninth in NESCAC and her service aces per set at 0.56 is fourth in the NESCAC. Farley led NESCAC in assists per set at 9.93 and she registered 54 service aces, fifth best in NESCAC.
Kelsey commented, "I have been really impressed with the overall growth of these nine returners. To have such an impactful group continue to invest and value what our program is about speaks volumes regarding the character of these young women both on and off the court. It was awesome for them to have the experience that they did a year ago, but they know that each season comes with new expectations, challenges and experiences."
Other returners who provided significant impact on the court were Catherine Egan (210 total kills, .253 hitting percentage), Katherine Lane (238 kills, .287 hitting percentage) and Caitie Benell (239 total digs, 2.39 digs/set).
"I think back to this time a year ago and we had really taken a long, hard look as a team at what we did really well from the prior season and what we had to build on to even try to compete or return to the level that we did from the previous (2013) season," noted Kelsey. "This year is no different. We have some great new talent, which we are adding to our program with our first‐year players, and we have some remarkable depth and experience in the skill set and mentality of our returners. All of us have this really unique and fun challenge to see if we can raise the expectations and our overall skill level as a team from where we finished a year ago. That is no easy task. We know each year the NESCAC keeps getting deeper, stronger and more competitive, as well as the New England Region as a whole, so we have to keep setting new standards and goals for our team and stay focused on making each other and our entire team better every day."
Looking to add to the energy and excitement of the 2015 squad are six first-year players from all over the country , Japan, and a new assistant coach as well. The first years include Morgan Richman (Arizona), Ally Ostrow (California), Mia Weinland (Japan), Tess Richman (California), Nica Kovalcik (Massachusetts) and Roxi Corbeil (California).
In addition, joining the coaching staff in her first‐season as an Eph will be Rosi Cummings (2013 graduate of SUNY‐Plattsburgh).
"There are going to be a lot of new faces that we welcome in as part of our volleyball family this year," Kelsey said. "It's pretty cool to see our returners have a renewed sense of purpose and drive for the upcoming season and to sense the enthusiasm and excitement level surrounding our newcomers as well. For us as a program, the things that are our core value don't change year to year. The biggest is that this is our volleyball family and we put a priority on making sure we continue to build our relationships and connections with one another both on and off the court to create a strong foundation that defines our team chemistry. How we come together as a team over the course of the next three months will play a key role in just what we are able to build and accomplish as a program in the 2015 season. "
As for some initial preseason predictions on the conference and the region for the upcoming season, coach Kelsey is not about to get into predictions.
"The battle for the NESCAC title every year is an exciting adventure," she noted. "We had an incredible, three‐day weekend last year from all the teams who competed in our conference championship. There were battles across the board every night including an outstanding, hard‐fought final. That weekend really highlighted and showcased the amazing student‐athletes and coaches who represent the NESCAC and only proved that each year anything can happen. The entire league is a fun, talented group across the board and our non‐conference opponents outside of the NESCAC embody that as well. It will make for some incredibly exciting and challenging matches each and every time we step on the court this season."
Williams opens its 2015 campaign Wednesday, September 9 at Vassar College and will be followed up by additional competition that weekend (September 11 and 12) at the Union College Invitational against Cortland, Union, Skidmore, and Oneonta.