BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - A majority of the key components that helped the Union College volleyball team to the 2007 Appalachian Athletic Conference regular-season championship return for another run in 2008. Whitney Erb takes over the reigns of the team after spending two years as an assistant coach for the Lady Bulldogs, who are picked to finish second in the AAC this season.
The Lady Bulldogs open the 2008 campaign Friday and Saturday as they participate in the Anderson (S.C.) University Tournament.
With the core of last year's team returning Erb is up to the challenge. "I am excited to take over a program with high expectations that returns key components from last year's team," she added. Nine players return that played in 38 matches or more in 2007, including four that played in every match. Erb was able to bring in six new players for her first recruiting class. She was able to fill needs and add depth in all areas.
Erb inherits a team with three seniors that have gone from 11 wins their first year to a school record 34 victories last season. The seniors have the potential to become the winningest group in program history. Through their first three years the group has collected 66 wins.
Union returns the Appalachian Athletic Conference Player, Freshman and Setter of the Year in Monica Moreland (Louisville, Ky.) Five times last year she was awarded the conference's setter of the week award. Moreland surpassed the Union single-season record with 1,454 assists before a knee injury sidelined her for the last weeks of the season.
"She came in as a freshman and not only impacted our team but the conference as well," Erb said. The head coach also added that Moreland will be an integral part of the success of the 2008 squad.
Christina Prindle (Florence, Ky.) moved into the setter's role after Moreland's injury last year and kept Union marching towards the AAC crown. She totaled 415 assists during the season and was also the AAC Setter of the Week once. If Moreland stays healthy, Prindle will compete for the libero position.
Senior Marlee Cooper (Bloomington, Ill.), owns Union's career kills record and enters her final year with 1,393 kills. Cooper's veteran leadership will be a key for Union according to Erb. In 44 matches last season, she collected 409 kills.
After a successful off season, Autumn Combs (Florence, Ky.) should add an additional offensive threat to go with her blocking skills Erb added. She had 281 kills to go with 232 total blocks during her sophomore campaign.
One of Erb's goals in recruiting was to add depth and she did with a trio of freshmen at six feet or taller. Amelia Cantrell (Georgetown, Ky.), Courtney Compton (Somerset, Ky.) and Lauren Wilson (Corbin, Ky.) are entering the Union program this season. The three should provide additional depth for the position and give Erb flexibility.
Stephanie Pateman (Weyburn, Canada) looks to follow a record-breaking and All-AAC season in 2008. Pateman used 601 kills to break Cooper's single-season mark. The senior gives Erb two seniors at the net along with Cooper.
"She has not only improved her power, but also her court sense which will prove to be a deadly weapon," Erb commented.
Joining Pateman on the outside is junior Brooke Vinovich (Somerset, Ky.) Erb looks for Vinovich to expand on the confidence she built over her first two seasons with the Lady Bulldogs. Vinovich should have additional confidence after ranking second on the 2007 squad with 475 kills.
The core of the back row returns for Union. Suzannah Behnken (Tempe, Ariz.), Sarah Alderson (Birmingham, Ala.), Meg Donnelly (Middletown, Ohio) and Prindle all saw time in at least 45 matches during 2007.
Erb will mix and match to get each court time during 2008. Behnken is the lone senior in the back row while the other three are juniors. Prindle led the team with 109 aces and had 488 digs to lead all returners. She also holds the single-match record with 37 digs. Alderson and Behnken had 354 and 289 digs, respectively. Donnelly ranked second in the aces category with 95. Erb commented that Donnelly and Prindle are the most effective servers on the team.
NEW ASSISTANT COACH
Erb is also excited about the addition of new assistant coach Kellen Foganholi, who was a three-time NAIA All-American at National American (S.D.) University. A native of Brazil, Foganholi helped NAU to the 2006 NAIA National Championship.
"Kellen brings with her NAIA National Championship expericence as well as an international knowledge of the game, which will help our program go to the next level," said Erb.