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Latest Scores
11/1 Ohio Valley 3-0
11/3 Glenville 3-1
Season Records
Overall: 29-11
Conf.: 18-0
WVIAC Tourney: 0-0


Season Outlook

To say that the 2007 Wheeling Jesuit University volleyball team is young would be correct.  After all, 11 of the 16 players are underclassmen.  To say that the team is inexperienced, however, would be far from the truth.

Only one starter departed from the 2006 squad that went 20-16 overall, and 15-2 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  Despite the 15-2 conference record, Wheeling Jesuit saw its string of four consecutive regular season championships come to an end.

“I think that we will be more competitive this season and I hope to be more competitive in the region this year,” stated sixth-year head coach Christy Benner.  Last year’s team had only three upperclassmen, and as might have been expected, struggled at times.  “It took some time for all our freshmen to get acclimated to Division II volleyball last year,” continued Benner.  “But we feel much more confident going into this season that our players understand what they need to do and that we will be more consistent.”

Leading the 2007 club will be a pair of seniors – a pair of high school teammates from Pittsburgh, PA – Vanessa Lepore and Brandi Sroka.

Lepore has garnered post-season conference awards in each of her first three seasons at WJU:  twice being named first-team and once being named second-team All-WVIAC.  The libero co-captain was second in the conference last season with 4.94 digs per game.  “It all starts with passing,” said Benner, “and we count on Vanessa to get the transition from defense to offense going.”

2006 All-WVIAC Honorable Mention co-captain Sroka employs her outstanding athleticism at the Middle Blocker position.  In addition to her blocking skills, Sroka added 2.46 kills per game for the Cardinals last season, providing a much-needed boost to the offense.  “We have said from early on in her freshmen year that Brandi makes things happen.  We look forward to seeing her make a lot of good things happen this year,” stated Benner.

An offense that finished second in the conference in kills a season ago portends to be even more explosive in 2007.  Reigning WVIAC Freshman of the Year Catie Halberstadt returns to the outside hitter position, where she knocked down 3.07 kills per game.  Halberstadt was just as valuable defensively, recording 3.31 digs per game.

Two juniors, outside hitter Caitlin Carey (2.55 kills per game) and right side Jessica Castmore (2.06 kills per game), figure to once again be key hitters in the Cardinals’ offense.  Sophomores Mallorie Lotycz, Samantha Yakey, Michelle Bonfich, and Chelsea Skrzypek will all provide hitting depth.  Sophomore Missy Gossett (0.45 blocks per game), who saw her playing time steadily increase during last season, will be counted on for key support at the middle blocker position, and may even see some action on the right side.

Junior Emily Ray returns to the all-important setter position.  After not playing setter at all during her freshman season, Ray took over the position last year and finished third in the conference with 10.88 assists per game.  “Losing both of our setters after the 2005 season was tough,” explained Benner.  “Fortunately we had Emily, who had played the position in high school, and she really stepped up for us last year.”  Sophomore Katie Matel (2.45 assists per game) provides depth at the setter position, as well as allowing the team to seamlessly switch between the 5-1 and 6-2.

“I really like the versatility we have with this team,” said Benner.  “All of our setters can play different positions, which allows us to do different things both offensively and defensively.  Plus, we can move our hitters from side-to-side or into the middle – it just gives us so many more options.”

Four freshmen round out the squad:  Keysha Allison, Emily Borchers, Laura O’Reilly, and Andrea Bova.  “We are really excited about this freshman class.  Don’t be surprised if some of these players get significant playing time, perhaps even in starting roles, early in the season or right off the bat.  They are very talented, and we are happy to have them in Wheeling.”

Assistant coach Matt Benner, Christy’s husband, returns for his seventh season as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, and eleventh season overall with the Cardinal volleyball program.  “I can’t say enough about Matt,” said head coach Christy Benner.  “He commits so much time, energy and passion to this program.  And he also goes out and recruits all these top-caliber players.  But beyond that, he truly cares about our players and their families – and that is what sets him apart.”

Wheeling Jesuit will face a challenging schedule, playing many of the top teams in both the Great Lakes and Atlantic Regions.  In fact, eight of the Cardinals’ opponents participated in the NCAA Division II tournament last year.  The Cardinals open the season in Pensacola, Florida at the University of West Florida Tournament, and also travel to non-conference tournaments at Findlay, Ashland, and Shippensburg, as well as playing host to their own crossover tournament in early October.  “Even though we will be going to Pensacola beach, our schedule is certainly no day at the beach,” quipped Benner.  “But that’s the way we want it.  In order to be the best, you have to play the best.  And we want to be the best.”

The 18-match conference schedule features home-and-home dates with West Liberty, Seton Hill, and Ohio Valley; and meeting every other league foe one time each.  The Cardinals travel downstate to meet both defending conference co-champions, West Virginia State and Charleston, September 15 and October 25, respectively.  The conference tournament will be held in Charleston November 8-10, with the tournament winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

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