Volleyball Team Looks to Take Tough NWC By Surprise

SALEM — With five Northwest Conference volleyball teams among the nation’s top 30 Division III teams and the loss of five seniors from last year’s squad, Head Coach Tricia Wright says Bearcat foes may be surprised if they take her young and talented team for granted.

"We’re playing in one of the top Division III conferences in the country, maybe the toughest," says the second year
head coach. "But we’re going to be very athletic and we’ve got a very solid core of returning players. We may just surprise a few teams this year."

The loss of seniors like Crystal DeMello, Jo Lee Sturgell, Jamie Tautfest and Diane Chamberlain will be felt more in the leadership category than pure talent.

But veteran hitters Jenni Linden (pictured above), a three-year starter, and a healthy Kristin Kirchner will help point the Bearcats in the right direction. Last year Linden was a second team all-NWC selection.

Kristen Halleck (honorable mention all-NWC), Lauren Thompson, Jodi Zaffino, Celia Batlan, Angie Sammons, Emily Doerr and Megan Scheelar all return from last year’s 11-15 squad that finished sixth in the NWC with a 7-9 record.

"These players have had a year in our new system, and they buy into it," says Wright. "So as we add in our freshmen this year, it’s a much more cohesive group. Plus, the girls worked really hard in the off-season and they’re coming into this season in much better shape overall."

Wright is also excited about a solid group of incoming freshmen.

"Jennifer Leimer (a defensive specialist) and Katie Costic (a 5’11" outside hitter) should be solid right from the start," says Wright.

In addition, she is pleased with the early season work of her other freshmen including Lexi Fish, Carly Camerer, Elise LaHusen-Bair and Erin Bone.

"It’s going to be tough out there every night when we get into our Northwest Conference schedule. But we just have to worry about ourselves and go out every night and play a solid match. The scores will take care of themselves," said Wright. "Our goal is to be competitive every night, to work hard and to improve on last year’s performance. The wins will come."

Jenni Linden

Jenni Linden