Dec. 22, 2012
Boston College concluded its 2012 volleyball season last month, and although the Eagles finished 11th in the ACC with an overall record of 10-22 and a mark of 4-16 in the conference, BC's record does not tell the whole story of its season as the team made significant improvements under the direction of third-year head coach Chris Campbell.
"I think there are two ways you can look at the season," Campbell said. "The obvious one is you can just look at the record. We didn't get as many wins in conference as we'd hoped once the year started, but I think if you look a little bit more in depth you get a different picture."
"We got hurt by injuries to a couple players at bad times and in one position. Between sprained ankles, shin splints, sprained knees - it really hurt our depth at the outside hitting position which is critical for us," Campbell said. "So if anything I think that was frustrating for the staff and players knowing that there was the potential here to really break out. We were just not quite able to tap into it because of some injury limitations."
As a team in 2012, BC reached its highest RPI (No. 156) since joining the ACC, and the Eagles welcomed more fans (2,869) through the entrances of Power Gym than ever before. BC competed with several top-25 opponents and tested several foes within the conference throughout the year.
Several Eagles made positive strides over the course of the season - an encouraging sign for a team with a nucleus of freshmen and sophomores. Katty Workman, the ACC's leader in kills per set and an ACC All-Freshman Team selection, emerged as one of the conference's top players while Courtney Castle, Kellie Barnum, Melissa McTighe, and Kameron McLain all made important progress over the course of the year.
"It was great to see that level of change, and I think we pushed some of the top teams in the conference to their limit in a number of matches," Campbell said. "For us the only frustrating part was not being able to transform that individual improvement into team improvement because of our limitations with injuries. I think the really encouraging part is that the players all see the improvement. They know where they got better, and they know the growth that we've gotten."
Despite a record that came in below expectations, a number of players began to make the move to the next level with their skills and abilities for BC.
"I was really quite happy with individual development and growth in several of the players over the course of the season," Campbell said. "On an individual basis we saw some marked improvement."
Katty Workman made an immediate impact on the team, setting BC's freshman record for kills in a season (421) while also ranking sixth in that same category all-time at BC. Despite missing time with an ankle injury, the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native recorded 12 double-doubles and earned ACC Freshman of the Week honors on three different occasions.
"Obviously Katty had a great year. She led the conference in kills per game and points per game. For us the exciting thing is there is still a great deal of development room left in her game," Campbell said. "You take what you can get from freshmen during their opening season. It's not really until you have a spring season that you really have the time to add some refinement so I think that's very exciting."
Coming off a strong freshman campaign, Courtney Castle took a step forward as a sophomore registering higher numbers in kills per set (from 2.45 in 2011 to 2.95 in 2012), hitting percentage (from .113 to .177), and digs per set (from 3.16 to 3.39).
"Courtney added over 60 points to her hitting efficiency from her freshman year to her sophomore year. That's an amazing improvement, and she sat out most of last spring with an injured shoulder and an injured ankle," Campbell said. "For her to be able to improve that much basically just in the season, I think it's really exciting to look at that and think about what we can develop."
Sophomore co-captain Kellie Barnum matured as a setter moving from 10th in the ACC in assists per set (7.86) as a freshman to seventh in the league with 8.21 assists per set as a sophomore.
"Kellie, I felt really started to develop a good connection with most of the hitters over the course of the season," Campbell said. "In particular, by the end, her tempos to the pin hitters were really good. The pin hitters were starting to be able to trust that and to use that tempo to their advantage."
Junior Melissa McTighe helped provide a veteran presence for a young Eagles team as the Los Altos, Calif., resident played in all 114 sets for the Eagles in 2012.
"Melissa in the middle, by the end of the season, developed a much better connection on the slide where it became a real weapon," Campbell said. "She really developed the knowledge of a different range of shots so if things aren't perfect of what she could do to attack - and maybe not score - but give us an advantage within the play."
Freshman Kameron McLain came on strong at the end of the season notching a season-high 11 kills in the season finale while classmate Franny Hock set BC's freshman record for digs in a season (381) and ranked 10th in the ACC in digs per set (3.53).
Boston College played competitively in a number of matches throughout the season against stiff competition, demonstrating the potential of a young team while also experiencing the growing pains of youth and the setbacks of injuries.
"Ultimately every season gets judged on wins and losses. That's the nature of sport," Campbell said. "But in rebuilding a program you can miss a lot of the development and a lot of the detail by doing that."
Early in the season, BC took sets from then-No. 23 Northern Iowa (Aug. 31) and then-No. 5 Southern California (Sept. 1). On the Trojans' home floor, the Eagles also fell by the two-point minimum in set two.
In 2012, the Eagles won three ACC matches on the road, marking the first time BC had done so since 2006. For the first time in school history the team defeated Duke (Oct. 6) to cap the program's first ACC road weekend sweep - BC defeated Wake Forest on the previous night. In the team's first ACC match of the season, the Eagles beat Maryland (Sept. 7) in College Park, Md.
As the season continued Boston College showed signs of improvement in close losses, despite injuries. BC pushed Miami - a team then ranked at No. 15 in the RPI - to five sets on Oct. 14 with the Eagles outscoring the Hurricanes 104-95 in total points. The Eagles challenged Duke (Nov. 2) and Virginia (Nov. 10) in five-set matches and went four sets with Wake Forest (Nov. 4) and Maryland (Nov. 24). At then-No. 11 Florida State on Nov. 18, BC also lost two different sets by just three points.
"There were great trends, and I think that showed up in some of the matches," Campbell said. "I feel like we're knocking at the door. Obviously we weren't quite where we need to be to pull wins out of those, but I think we're a lot closer than the record indicates."
Looking Ahead to 2013
With seven players returning next season who played in at least 90 sets, the Eagles will look to improve the team's fortunes in 2013 with a foundation of growth and experience from this past year.
The process will begin as Boston College embarks on a spring of training and scrimmages.
"The spring is where the real development growth is because you have so much more time to slow things down and really take it step-by-step," Campbell said. "As happy as I was with individual development during the season, I'm even more excited about what we can accomplish in the spring because that's when we really have the time to do it."
The Eagles will carry a core group of veterans into the spring and will look forward to the influx of another talented recruiting class in the fall including the additions of November NLI signees, setter Jackie Bowman, libero/defensive specialist Madisen Lydon, and middle hitter Anna Skold.
"Certainly, I think there are some players - some freshmen coming in next year - who are going to be able to contribute and really help us," Campbell said. "But I'm excited about the group we have here right now and what we're going to be able to do with everybody healthy and with a full semester of training in the spring."
BC will seek to convert its individual improvement in 2012 along with the potential for additional development in the spring and summer into a successful campaign in the fall of 2013.
"That individual development I think is going to continue," Campbell said. "That's one of the things we pride ourselves on at BC - we're going to train players to develop the skills they need to compete for national championships, to develop the skills they need to compete for an ACC title."
"Overall, the team definitely took some strides this year. We played against some of the top teams in the country and played them very well," Campbell said. "We're very excited about the direction of the program and where we're headed moving forward."