Young Mountaineers host tournament to start season
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012 06:08
The West Virginia volleyball team opens its 2012 season at home this weekend with the Mountaineer Invitational Aug. 24-25.
The Mountaineers will take on Saint Francis, Central Connecticut and Loyola-Maryland.
The tournament will serve as a litmus test for many of the players as the Mountaineers’ head coach Jill Kramer is set to start several freshmen, including middle blocker Caleah Wells, who comes to the Mountaineers as a 2011-2012 Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A all-state team member.
"Caleah is probably the most explosive and dynamic player on the roster," Kramer said. "I expect her to go up and give some of the best middle blockers in the (Big 12 Conference) a run for their money."
The team will also rely heavily on junior co-captain Liz Gulick, who serves as the team’s defensive specialist and finished the 2011 season with 52 digs, two service aces and five assists. Gulick also managed two stellar performances against DePaul and Louisville, recording a season-high eight digs in each match.
The team starts the tournament against Saint Francis, a team that may hold an initial challenge for the young West Virginia team.
The game will feature a matchup between two talented middle blockers, as Wells will go up against Elizabeth Williams, who returns for her senior year after leading the Red Flash in kills a season ago.
Williams finished her junior season with 282 kills, 68 digs and 65 blocks. The Mountaineers and Kramer will have an early test against Williams and her fellow Red Flash teammates in the invitational’s opening game.
Central Connecticut enters the tournament after a fairly successful 2011 season. The Blue Devils held a 20-11 record and were 11-5 in conference games.
Central Connecticut will look to take advantage of the Mountaineers’ freshmen outside hitters as the Blue Devils sport two excellent outside hitters themselves. Seniors Emily Cochran and Blaike King combined for an astounding 744 kills last season with Cochran leading the team with 446.
West Virginia freshmen Nikki Attea and Hannah Sackett are scheduled as the outside hitters slated with the task of countering Central Connecticut’s onslaught. The pair is just two of three freshmen at the outside hitter position for the Mountaineers, who come into the season with only three returning players from last year’s team.
The final matchup for the Mountaineer volleyball team is against Loyola-Maryland. Loyola looks to rebound and prove its worth in the MAAC as it managed just eight wins total from the 2011 season. The Greyhounds are led by senior Janet Pressler, who had 363 digs last season and anchored the team at the libero position.
Anna Panagiotakopoulos will hope to outshine Pressler as the Mountaineers’ libero. Panagiotakopoulos enters the season as a freshman with quite the record sheet. The young libero served under Kramer on the US Volleyball National Youth Training team in 2010 and was selected as an AVCA all-American nominee in 2011.
"(Anna is) a sparkplug," Kramer said. "She’s always upbeat and positive. Nothing can upset her."
With that, the Mountaineers can be sure that Panagiotakopoulos will be able to keep her fellow freshmen in the game.
And, with the senior leadership of captain Karly Rasmussen, the team can expect a solid performance in each game of the opening invitational.