Aug. 21, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The roster for the 2012 Navy volleyball team features a mix of three seniors, the return of half of its starting lineup from a year ago and 11 members of the Class of 2016.
The season, Larry Bock's second as the head coach of the Mids, begins this weekend when Navy plays host to the Kristen Dickmann Invitational in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. Navy opens up play at the tournament Friday at 7 p.m. when the Mids play host to Hartford. Then, on Saturday, Navy will face Norfolk State at 11 a.m. and Nebraska-Omaha at 6 p.m.
The non-Navy matches on the weekend feature Nebraska-Omaha playing Norfolk State Friday at 4 p.m., Hartford playing Nebraska-Omaha Saturday at 1 p.m. and Hartford taking on Norfolk State Saturday at 4 p.m.
Live statistics from each of the six matches will be available at NavySports.com, with a free live video stream of Saturday evening's Navy vs. Nebraska-Omaha match also available at the web site.
There is no admission charge to attend any Navy volleyball match throughout the 2012 season.
Navy's deepest position, in terms of the number of returning players, is the outside / opposite hitter slot with five letterwinners back from last year's squad. Included among this quintet is team captain Kelsey Owen (Canfield, Ohio), who appeared in 24 of Navy's 29 matches last season and ranked among the team's top returning service ace leaders (.237 saps) a year ago.
Also back for the Mids are 2011 starters Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) and Christy Rapp (So., Royal Oak, Mich.), both of whom saw extensive action at other positions last year. Fortner began the 2011 campaign as Navy's setter before ending it on the outside. She averaged just 1.57 kills per set for the full year, but knocked down 3.13 kills per set in her matches where she was only a hitter. This included a 23-kill effort on the last weekend of the season. Meanwhile, Rapp is the lone returning player to have played in all 103 sets during Navy's 2011 season. She split time as a defensive specialist and on the outside, a dual role she is expected to fulfill again this year. Rapp led all returning players last season with 25 service aces while also adding a little more than one kill per set.
Completing the list of returning players on the wings are Carolyn Ewert
(Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.) and Case Trimble
(So., Orlando, Fla.). After sitting out the last half of the 2009 season and all of the 2010 campaign due to a knee injury, Ewert returned to the court last year to lead Navy with 245 kills. Her efforts last season included 13 matches with 10 or more kills and seven matches with double figure digs. Meanwhile, Trimble averaged nearly one kill per set during the Patriot League season.
Adding to the depth of the position are five freshmen: Camille Condit (Concord, Calif.), Maeve Drummey (Silver Spring, Md.), Barb Lesko (Imperial, Pa.), Mallory Shelton (Fort Scott, Kan.) and Olivia Yeager (Lutz, Fla.).
Condit twice earned all-league honors during her career at Clayton Valley High School and was tabbed as the MVP of the team once.
"Camille gives us great versatility and length at both antenna positions," said Bock. "She has played prep and club volleyball at high levels and has a world of potential as she begins her collegiate career."
Drummey helped Our Lady of Good Counsel High School to four conference crowns while twice garnering first-team all-league accolades herself.
"Maeve is one of those people who make life in the gym worth living for teammates and coaches," said Bock. "She is all about energy and athleticism, traits which make the people around her much better. Maeve has been our best surprise of the pre-season."
Lesko was a two-time all-state (Pa.) honoree at West Allegheny High School and was a member of two district title-winning volleyball teams.
"Barb was an all-state player from the best athletic conference in Pennsylvania and played club volleyball at the highest levels," said Bock. "She's a great athlete who has been extremely well coached, so she should make a fast, good transition from hitter to defense."
Shelton was an all-around athlete at Fort Scott High School who earned letters in volleyball, basketball and track in each of here four years. She also earned three all-league honors in volleyball while helping her team win one league title.
"(Assistant coach) Kait Kozak and I are excited to watch Mallory each day we walk into the gym," said Bock. "She probably has the best arm, feet and athletic pop on the team. She is also likely at about the same developmental stage as a one-year-old thoroughbred, so it's going to be great fun watching her grow into a national level volleyball player."
Yeager was a three-time all-state (Fla.) honoree at the Cambridge Christian School and saw her senior season capped by helping her team win the district championship.
"We expect Olivia to contribute immediately," said Bock. "With a terrific arm, solid platform and good speed, she is a true all-around outside hitter with outstanding passing, ball-control and attacking abilities."
In the middle of the court, Bock also has an equal ratio of returning players to newcomers on the squad. Headlining the returning middle hitters is Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah), who was one of only two players on last year's team to start every match for the Mids. Cassel averaged 1.20 kills per set as a freshman, while also contributing an average of 0.53 blocks per set. The other half of the returning tandem is Caroline Jacobs (Jr., Arnold, Md.), who knocked down an average of 1.51 kills per set last year.
The pair of new middle hitters consists of Frankie Emanuele (Rockville, Md.) and Katie Sylakowski (Escondido, Calif.). Emanuele, a teammate of Drummey's on both the high school and club volleyball levels, earned all-conference accolades in each of her four seasons and was an all-state (Md.) selection as a senior.
"Frankie has a fast arm and great feet, so she fits really well with the speed-based middle hitter operation we need to incorporate," said Bock. "Additionally, she and Maeve both bring with them a history of winning at both the high school and club levels that will serve our team well for the next four years."
Sylakowski twice earned first-team all-league honors while at Escondido High School and was named as the league's co-player of the year during her final season at the school. In addition to her individual honors, the team collectively won two conference crowns.
"Katie was one of the top prep middle hitters in the country and as a club player has been competitively prepared to help our Navy teams turn some heads over the coming years," said Bock. "She's a powerful, savvy middle hitter and will be fun to watch during her years in Annapolis."
The back row of Navy's lineup features two returning defensive players and two newcomers. The duo of returning players consists of Rapp, who ranked second on last year's team with an average of 2.17 digs per set, and J.B. Loomis (So., Havertown, Pa.), who produced nearly one dig per set a year ago. Joining Rapp and Loomis as defensive players this year are newcomers Drummey and Jamie Francona (Chestnut Hill, Mass.). Francona served as the captain of her Brookline High School team as a senior, a season that also saw her earn all-state (Mass.) laurels.
"Jamie was one of the top setters in New England and has brought that same take-charge ability to a defensive role at Navy," said Bock. "She's fast, beyond bright and a tough competitor. Jamie immediately makes us a better team."
With Fortner moving to the outside this season and no other 2011 players returning at the setter position, a trio of freshmen will contest to handle the quarterbacking duties on the team.
Eleanor Derouin (Raleigh, N.C.) helped Cardinal Gibbons High School win three state titles while garnering all-league accolades herself as a senior.
"As an athletic, super-smart, creative setter, Elle's volleyball skills are obvious," said Bock, "but it has quickly become clear that she is a prime example of why the USNA is a cut above. She is like so many midshipmen who have that unique ability to consistently synergize and connect with the people around her."
Alex Karika (Cranberry Township, Pa.) earned three all-state (Pa.) laurels, was a four-time all-league honoree and played for a Seneca Valley High School team that placed no lower than second in its conference in each of her last three seasons.
"Alex has two abilities that are immediately apparent and should lend to future success," said Bock. "First, she has great set location and second, she is visibly unflappable. She was certainly one of the top prep setters in the East last year and she'll be an immediate asset to Navy this season."
Star Steele (Tampa, Fla.) was the MVP of her Tampa Catholic High School volleyball team as both a junior and senior and was named as the MVP of the school's basketball team once during her career. She also garnered all-county and all-state (Fla.) honors in volleyball during her final season at the school.
"Star comes to Annapolis very well-prepared to help take our team to the next level of play," said Bock. "She is really fast to the ball and also has the good brakes that are so important for a setter to possess. She played for one of the top club teams in the nation and is really prepared to run the offense here at Navy."