WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Williams head volleyball coach Christi Kelsey, back for her 11th season at the helm of the program, sees no limits for the 2019 Ephs.
"We have an incredible core of returning players back which creates an awesome foundation for our team chemistry and culture right from the start for this new season," she said. "Then we add in seven new first-years which will make up just about half of our team. They are an amazing group of people as well who bring a ton of passion, hard work and enthusiasm to add to our already close-knit, driven and experienced group."
Kelsey's roster of 16 will consist of 4 seniors, 3 juniors and 2 sophomores who saw plenty of court time during the 12-12 2018 campaign. The fours seniors are outside hitter Erin Denham, setter Alexandra Newton, libero Daiana Takashima and opposite hitter Natalie Albright. Denham was a 2nd Team All-Conference selection in 2017 and finished 9th in the conference with 251 kills in 2018. Newton was 4th in the NESCAC with 754 assists last season. Takashima led the team with 369 digs a year ago. Albright saw action in 9 matches and registered 7 kills.
But the senior group is much more than a list of statistics, and Kelsey will rely heavily on their savvy to guide this year's teams.
"They are a very strong group to have as a foundation in terms of experience and leadership," she said. "They are each very unique in the perspective they bring and the roles they play on the court."
The juniors include libero/defensive specialist Allison Frison along with outside hitters Alicia Blanco and Lauren Barry. Frisson was second on the team with 237 digs a year ago, while Blanco had 20 digs and Barry 9 kills. The sophomores include Lydia Kurtz and Olivia Hindy. Hindy was second in the NESCAC last year with 69 total blocks, 18 solo, and fourth on the team ib kills per set with 1.52, while Kurtz notched 1.29 kills per set and 111 digs.
Some of the returners will have new roles on the court this season, of course, and how quickly Kelsey can fold in the aforementioned seven seniors — Christina Conforti, Renee Depencier-Pinero, Brooke Flagler, Gracie Guidotti, Morgan Persky, Anna Tosolini and Kiley Wallace — will go a long way in determining how this squad fares once conference plys rolls around.
"We hope we're seeing a lot of people add value in different roles, especially early in the season when we're trying to see how things piece together," Kelsey noted. "There's a huge opportunity for them — what is great about this group is there is a tremendous amount of depth. I think what gets lost some times in team's successes is how strong your depth is at every position. I believe we have very good depth at every position this year."
One area Kelsey hopes to see improvement is the team's consistency. Matching the execution in practice to matches last year didn't always translate.
"We (Kelsey and assistant coach Vanessa Brown) have to help them be just as confident in matches as they are in practice," Kelsey said. "We can be — and we need to be — more consistent in our match play."
Williams finished 5-5 in the conference last season and dropped its tournament quarterfinal match. Kelsey has set up a tough non-conference schedule as a prelude to taking on the NESCAC opponents.
"Our competition schedule will test us for sure this year as there are no easy matches in our non-conference opponents," she said. "For our conference matches, we have no doubt that the NESCAC will be as tough and as strong as ever. It has been awesome to see just how deep the talent level is in our conference and that night in and night out there are some really great battles. It speaks a lot to the coaches and players that represent our 11 schools and it also makes for a truly fun season to measure and test ourselves in every match. All in all, we have a tremendous amount of excitement about the possibilities for this season and we can't wait to hit the ground running with this entire crew to see what we can build together."