Aug. 21, 2012
Chris Campbell enters his third season as the head coach of the Boston College volleyball team with expectations for steady improvement. With nine letterwinners and five starters returning, as well as an influx of six talented freshmen, the Eagles will look to better their mark of 7-24 (3-17 ACC) from a year ago.
"We're a little bit deeper at every position this year which is nice," Campbell said. "We're starting to get enough depth in each position that we should be able to field a starting lineup in every match that's pretty competitive."
The Eagles open the 2012 season with the Boston College Invitational held in the friendly confines of Power Gym from Aug. 24-25.
"It's nice to open up at home," Campbell said. "We've got four good teams coming in. I think each one of them will give us a different challenge and a different look which is exactly what you want in the opening weekend."
After the tournament, BC heads on the road for a tournament at USC from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 marking a homecoming for the team's nine California natives. While in Los Angeles the Eagles will face two AVCA preseason-ranked schools in #5 USC and #21 Northern Iowa.
"The tournament itself is a really strong tournament," Campbell said. "That's one that'll give us a different test--playing against a number of teams that are really pretty seasoned and have experienced players at an elite level at every position. If the opening weekend is going to allow us to move some players around and see where their strengths are, we'll test those strengths in the second weekend at USC."
The team will play in tournaments at the University of Maryland (Sept. 7-8) and at Northeastern University (Sept. 14-15) before opening ACC play on Sept. 21 at Georgia Tech. BC hosts its ACC home-opener against Virginia on Sept. 27. The Eagles are destined to face tough competition throughout the conference and play preseason-ranked #12 Florida State twice--at home on Oct. 12 and in Tallahassee on Nov. 18.
"Overall I think the conference is up, by and large every team is a little stronger than they were last year so it hasn't gotten any easier to be successful. That being said, I think we're going to be competitive in more matches than we have been in the past," Campbell said. "So the conference has gotten better, but we have too."
Senior Krystle Higgins and sophomore Kellie Barnum will captain the Eagles during the 2012 season with Higgins returning for her second season in the leadership position.
"Both Krystle and Kellie have had significant contributions to the program in the past. We'll need them to continue that," Campbell said. "A lot of it's also about developing the culture that we need to have here to be successful and changing that. They've both done a great job thus far of demonstrating the kind of work ethic that we need to be successful."
On the outside the Eagles return sophomore standout Courtney Castle as well as senior Val Mattaliano who looks to bounce back from ACL surgery in 2011.
Castle emerged as a key contributor during her freshman campaign recording eight double-doubles on the season and ranking second on the team in kills (218), digs (281), and points per set (3.01). The Orange, Calif. native also finished fourth in the ACC in service aces per set (0.30) and earned the conference's freshman of the week honors for the week of Oct. 10-16.
"She really worked hard in the offseason physically," Campbell said. "Just athletically she's made huge improvements so I expect to see that transfer into her game."
Mattaliano's injury limited her to 33 sets as a junior. As a sophomore, the Glen Ellyn, Ill. resident played in 106 sets finishing second on the team in 2010 with 215 kills.
Alongside Castle and Mattaliano, the Eagles welcome a trio of freshmen -- Cassidy Vaughn, Sarah Mendes, and Katty Workman -- who should all compete for playing time. Vaughn, who hails from Austin, Texas, enrolled at Boston College in January of 2012 and participated with the Eagles during the spring season.
"All three of them have different talents and different strengths," Campbell said. "But combined that group has good ball control, they've got good offensive threat, and they've all got good volleyball IQ."
In the middle BC will look to utilize the veteran skills and abilities of Higgins and junior Melissa McTighe.
"Both played every match last year so we have a lot of experience coming back there," Campbell said. "They both worked quite hard in the offseason so athletically they can do a few more things now than they could before."
Higgins currently ranks sixth in career total blocks (266) and fifth in career block assists (217) all-time at Boston College. The Inglewood, Calif. native led the team with 95 total blocks, 78 block assists, and a .255 attack percentage as a junior while also finishing third on the squad in kills (207) and points per set (2.57) during the 2011 campaign.
McTighe, a Los Altos, Calif. resident, finished second on the team with 92 total blocks and a .222 attack percentage as a sophomore in 2011 trailing only Higgins in both categories.
Kameron McLain, a freshman from Bellevue, Wash., joins the duo at the position.
"Kameron McLain coming in is a fantastic athlete and used to playing at a high level of club," Campbell said. "So I expect, once she makes the transition to the speed of the collegiate game to allow her athleticism to kick in, she's really going to be able to contribute and to take some of the pressure off that middle group."
BC welcomes back a wealth of experience at the setter position in Barnum and junior Cagla Sen.
"Both have had great training camps--lot of improvement in both of them. That's one I see being maybe the most competitive position on the team," Campbell said. "They both have a different set of strengths so it gives us the freedom to tailor what we need to do against different opponents, depending on what we need in that particular match, since they both have a different area of strength. They're both full-six rotation players and both good leaders on the floor."
Barnum, a 2011-12 All-ACC Academic Team honoree, finished last season tenth in the ACC and first on the team in assists per set (7.86) and earned the conference's recognition as freshman for the week of Sept. 26-Oct. 2. The Pacific Palisades, Calif. native led the Eagles with 684 assists during the 2011 campaign.
An injury in 2011 limited Sen to 59 sets played, but the junior, who hails from Istanbul, Turkey, still finished second on the team with 287 assists after leading the team in that category with 476 assists as a freshman in 2010.
At the libero position the Eagles retain the talents of junior Alexandra Trobbe, sophomore Lauren Fields, and junior Courtney Seitz. The graduation of Brennan Clark, who ranks second all-time at BC in career digs (1,831), creates an opportunity for an increased contribution to come from any one of the three.
"They're all a year older, a year better, and a little bit more developed. They all have just a little bit more experience under their belt so they'll be able to fill that role," Campbell said. "We do have a big hole left by our graduating senior from last year, Brennan Clark, so it's still kind of going to be an open season to see how that gets filled."
Trobbe, a Los Gatos, Calif. native, played in 70 sets for the Eagles last season and recorded a season-high nine digs at Duke on Oct. 14. Fields, who also calls California home, finished third on the team in 2011 with 216 digs while Seitz, who is from Wilmington, Del., saw action in 34 sets for BC last year.
The Eagles also have two new faces at the position in freshmen Franny Hock and Ariana Hanley. Hanley's older sister, Rainey Hanley, played volleyball for two seasons (2009-10) at the Heights after transferring from Seton Hall.
"I expect that to be a very competitive position," Campbell said. "We'll be seeing whose strengths match up best with our opponent on any given weekend to see how best to fill that spot."
Boston College does lose the services of three graduating seniors -- Clark, Tsvetelina Dureva, and Mollie Kolosky -- from the 2011 team.
As mentioned, the loss of Clark, who finished second in the ACC in digs per set (5.21) in 2011, leaves a considerable hole at the libero position. The graduation of Dureva, BC's team leader in kills (302) and points per set (3.16) a season ago, takes away one of the team's major offensive threats from last year while the loss of Kolosky, who served as a team captain as a sophomore, creates a gap in experience and leadership for the Eagles.
However, the Eagles field a team with a number of returning veterans and motivated newcomers looking to continue to move the team in a positive direction.
"I think we should be able to compete with everybody in the conference night in and night out, and that's definitely a step forward," Campbell said.