HANOVER, N.H. - Head Coach Erin Lindsey is back for her second season at the helm of the Dartmouth Volleyball team. With a wealth of talent and high hopes for success, the 2012 squad is young, motivated and excited to kick off its season.
In her first season with the Big Green, Lindsey led the team to a solid 16-9 record, tying the program high for wins in a season, set in 1999. Last year's squad finished fourth in the Ivy League with an 8-6 mark, its best since 2007.
"Last year was a good opportunity for me to learn where we were as a team and where we sit in the league," Lindsey remembered. "We spent the first half of the Ivy season getting used to the level of play and flushing out our system. Our second half was really strong - we started to get comfortable, produce offensively and understand what we needed to do. We also had some great individual performances, so we definitely have holes to fill this year."
Having lost two of its top players, Madeline Baird and Annie Villanueva, Dartmouth does have some big shoes to fill. But Lindsey believes that the talent of her freshman class, combined with the leadership and experience of her returning players, will put the team in good position to compete this fall.
"The talent is there," she said, "it's just a matter of putting all the pieces together. We have a lot of potential to improve and be better than we were last year, but at the same time we're young and a lot of our players are still getting to know each other and our system."
"Our captains are doing an exceptional job setting the tone for what Dartmouth Volleyball is going to look like moving forward," Lindsey said. "They've demonstrated how hard we're going to work and how serious we're going to be. They hold the rest of the team accountable."
In addition to the two captains, the 2012 squad has 14 other players who will undoubtedly prove to be solid contributors on the court this season.
Though the outside hitting position is not terribly deep this year, the skill level of the players there makes up for it. Sophomore Alex Shoenberger leads the way, having tallied the most kills (213) and kills per set (2.92) last season of all the Big Green returners.
"Alex had some huge 20+ kill matches as a freshman last year," Lindsey remembered. "We're going to see her get a lot of swings offensively this year as well."
Sophomore Maura Manley and rookie Paige Caridi will also see time on the pins. Manley, who didn't get much action last year due to injury, bounced back in the spring and developed both offense and range. Caridi will be valuable for her volleyball IQ and comprehension of the flow of the game.
On the right side is a pair of returners, Lucia Pohlman and Rose Dicovitsky, both of whom have shown great improvement heading into the season. Pohlman, after being recruited as a setter, has transitioned nicely into a new role as a hitter, while Dicovitsky has gotten faster and stronger with a nice block.
Junior Elisa Scudder emerged as a premiere blocker for the Big Green last season and is expected to make an even bigger impact this year.
"Scudder was behind the scenes last year until she broke the single-season block record ," Lindsey explained. "She has done really well in our blocking system, and her offense has improved tremendously as well."
Alongside Scudder are a trio of rookies - Katie Jarrett, Allison Brady and Kaira Lujan. Jarrett is described as having good blocking presence and great athleticism, while Brady is dynamic off the floor with a fast arm that really pops the ball. Lujan, standing at 6-4, has shown range and ability to cover the court with her length.
Santa Maria, who led the squad last season with 676 sets, will return to that role her final season, looking more stable and accurate than ever. Freshman Kayden Cook has also looked strong during practice and will compete for the role.
Five players are currently vying for the defensive specialist spot.
Holly Harper, a sophomore transfer from Williams, has a natural touch and talent that should get her some solid court time. Meghan Cooney did well in the serve receive pattern last season for the Big Green and also serves as a team leader.Taylor Bradley and Vivan Snider are both quick reactors who have been playing well in practice. Lastly, Kufeld, who excels at focusing the group and providing stability, is a great source of energy for the squad.
Dartmouth kicks off the 2012 campaign with an eight-match road swing beginning Friday, Aug. 31 at UConn (7:30 pm).
"The first weekend will be a big learning experience for us," Lindsey expects. "I know UConn is going to come out prepared and ready to go in their home opener, so we'll have to be, too."
The next day, Sept. 1, the Big Green will face volleyball powerhouse Michigan State (10:00 am), followed by Fairfield (5:00 pm) in a Saturday doubleheader.
"Our pre-season schedule is definitely going to challenge us," Lindsey said. "But the level of competition we're going to face should prepare us well for league play."
Dartmouth opens the Ivy schedule with Harvard at home on Sept. 21, and will go on to face each Ivy team twice in a double round robin format that spans the rest of the season.
"When we play Harvard for the first time, we want to feel comfortable with our system and know what our strengths are. It's one match at a time. We need to take care of business each time and prepare for each opponent differently. By the second half of the season, we hope to stand among the top three in the league to be in position to compete for an Ivy League Championship."