1996 Season Outlook
Entering her fifth season at Boston College, Coach Nadine Lilavois will have the luxury of looking to nine returning letterwinners, including four starters, to help lead to the team to a BIG EAST Conference Tournament berth. Despite enduring a 12-24 season a year ago, Lilavois is excited about the prospects of an improved 1996 squad. "I have noticed a tremendous amount of improvement in our team during the off-season. The team worked extremely hard and is looking forward to raising its record from a year ago."
After splitting time with senior Karen Trine last year, sophomore Katie Tortorello will assume the starting role in 1996. The hard-nosed competitor played very well down the stretch last season and Lilavois hopes that her progression continues with the starting assignment.
Although demonstrating the normal inconsistencies that plague most freshmen, the Shorewood, IL, native closed the season on a fine note. During the team's final six contests, in which the Eagles won three times, Tortorello showed her ability to lead the offense by guiding the club in assists five times, with the highlight being a 48-assist effort in the Eagles' win over Rutgers.
"Katie has worked really hard during the off-season and will be rewarded with the starting position," Lilavois said. "She has developed a solid rapport with the attackers, which is vital for a setter, and has made great strides in making the right decisions and in directing the offense. She has earned the confidence of her teammates."
If Tortorello should falter in her new role, Lilavois has the luxury of turning to senior Karen Trine. A starter the past two seasons, Trine will be counted on for some key minutes even if she does not wrestle the starting job from Tortorello. Freshman Robin Miller will provide depth in case Tortorello or Trine are beset with injuries.
"The setter is the most important player on the court, " explains Lilavois, "and to be able to have two capable setters who are familiar with our team and our offense is a big advantage."
Cathleen Carpenter, Natalie Scott and Eileen Broderick will all return to help anchor Boston College's middle blocker position, an area that will be affected by the loss of Kristen Roberts.
Carpenter, selected as the team's Freshman of the Year after her strong campaign last season, will be counted on to turn in another solid effort. Ranking fourth on the team with 220 kills, the Pacific Palisades, CA, native will be asked to provide the same kind of offensive production. Carpenter, who was selected to the Eagle Classic and Drexel Invitational all-tournament teams, also was one of the team's top blocking threats as she registered 54 blocks to tie Deanna Herman for second among team leaders.
A junior from Santa Ana, CA, Scott has not played a full season for the Eagles in her two years. Hobbled with injuries in 1995, Scott only appeared in 47 of the team's 127 games. Lilavois is anxious for Scott to enjoy an injury-free year and contribute to the Eagles' cause for a full season.
Despite playing in less than half of the team's games, Scott recorded 36 blocks to place fourth on the team. Showing glimpses of the ability that the coaching staff would like to utilize for a full season, Scott recorded eight kills and six blocks in the team's win over Rutgers.
Eileen Broderick, the team's Most Improved Player last season, as well as freshmen Jennifer Buchholz and Alisha Bain, a 6-2 outstanding athlete from Trumbull, CT, also figure into the playing-time equation at this position.
"This was a weak position for us last season, so I'm hoping a year of experience will help us improve," Lilavois said. "The three returning middle blockers all have made solid strides during the off-season and I'm hoping they can provide us with some solid blocking this season.
"The middle blocking position will also become a more focal part of our offensive attack this season. Natalie played well after she returned from her injuries, and we would like to incorporate her into the offense more this season. The main improvement that we are looking for in this area, however, is in terms of blocking. We need to have more of a blocking presence on our team."
Deanna Herman will unite with Amy Laurence to provide the Eagles with two explosive outside hitters. Herman, a two-time captain, was the Eagles' most consistent player last season in garnering the team's Most Valuable Player award for the second consecutive campaign.
The Oceanside, NY, native, who is closing in on 1,000 career kills, paced the club in that department last season for the third straight season with 394. Herman either led or tied for the team lead in kills in 20 of the team's 36 contests, including back-to-back 20-kill efforts against BIG EAST foes Connecticut and Georgetown. Herman is also a sound defensive player as demonstrated by the fact that she led the team in digs 11 times.
Complementing Herman on the other side will be junior Amy Laurence, who finished second the squad last year with 334 kills. Laurence, who led the team in kills 11 times last season, posted a team-high 29 kills in the Eagles' win over Central Connecticut. In addition to that performance, Laurence registered two other 20-kill contests to pace the squad with three such outings.
"Deanna and Amy played key roles for our team last season and to be able to count on them again for big points will be a bonus this season," Lilavois said. "I would like to see them improve their hitting percentages, however. Deanna and Amy are both going to have to finish off more of their opportunities this season if we are to realize our goals.
"Besides being one of the key elements to our offense, Deanna provides outstanding leadership. One of Deanna's greatest strengths is her versatility, and because of that asset we can move her all around the court depending on the particular situation.
Sophomore Courteney Grubb, who played a key defensive role last season, will be asked to also contribute at the outside hitter position this season.
"In addition to being a vacuum cleaner on the defensive side of the net, Courteney provides the team with a spark every time she enters the game because of her serving ability. In addition to taking advantage of her great jump-serve, we would like to give Courteney more of an offensive role."
Julia Gallacher, who will serve with Deanna Herman as this season's co-captains, will be rewarded for her hard work with the starting right side assignment. The coaching staff also believes that the 5-foot-10 junior will augment the team's blocking capabilities. Freshman Laura DeLong, who played middle blocker in high school, will be moved to the right side at Boston College.
Both excellent servers, the coaching staff will also insert Gallacher and DeLong into the lineup in key serving situations.
With the core of its team returning, and with the addition of some talented newcomers, Boston College Coach Nadine Lilavois is hoping that translates into an appearance at the BIG EAST Tournament at the end of the season.
"With four tournaments this season, including the UConn and Army Invitationals, and with regionally and nationally ranked opponents like Cincinnati and Minnesota competing in our own event, we believe that we have a good challenging schedule that will expose us to top-notch competition," Lilavois said.
"I'm hoping that all our hard work during the offseason will help us raise our level of performance on the court. Last season, we tried not to lose games instead of going out and trying to win them. Hopefully, we can learn from last season and make the necessary changes to improve our fortunes."