Kutztown University Athletics

09/06/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/06/2019 13:54

SEASON PREVIEW: Volleyball looking to make strides in 2019

Bolstered by the return of its leading offensive and defensive pieces, and its starting setter, the Kutztown University women's volleyball team is optimistic about taking steps forward to compete atop its new division in 2019.

A shift to the Central Division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference has the Golden Bears poised to take aim at favorite East Stroudsburg and head coach , now in his 23rd season at KU, is intrigued by the familiar faces in place to try and make it happen.

With no seniors and seasoned underclassmen returning, Gump recognizes the upside of that experience. 'A majority of our returnees played in meaningful matches last year and that should help a lot,' said Gump. 'When you're coming in, we can talk all we want about what to expect, but until you experience the speed, size and athleticism at this level it's a bit of an unknown. Nothing can replicate that.'

Junior outside hitter became the focal point of Kutztown's offense a season ago, breaking out with a team-high 369 kills --ninth most in a season in team history. She nearly doubled her attack attempts from freshman season (1,045) and averaged better than 3.75 kills per set. The Hatboro, Pennsylvania, native also improved defensively with 48 blocks (0.49/set) and 115 digs.

Fellow outside hitters , a 2018 All-PSAC Third Team selection, and have graduated. They ranked second and third on the team in kills, respectively, combining for 444 last year. Moyer also led the team in service aces (37) and was second in digs (265), while Howe was third in blocks (62).

Sophomore topped 100 kills as a freshman, spending time at right side and outside hitter. Joining a solid cast of returners on the edges are right side hitters and , and outside hitters and . The Golden Bears added a pair of newcomers in outside hitter from Harleysville and right side from Stafford, Virginia.

While much of the team's offensive production came from the outside last season, Gump believes a fortified interior is a larger factor in how much improvement the Golden Bears can make.

'We need to work from the inside out,' explained Gump. 'Last year, blockers tended to load up on our outsides and if we can improve the way we play in the middle, it will keep defenses honest against us.'

To do that, KU will rely heavily on the contributions of senior , who is back after a one-year absence, junior and sophomore .

Charlton is the Bears' top returning middle after putting up 78 kills and 69 blocks in 2018. She was only afforded 206 attacking attempts, however. Hewitt's speed makes her one to watch and Bohman had a strong preseason camp.

'Britney's game is fast and that's something we've been looking for,' said Gump. 'She's quick to balls that don't spend a lot of time in the air and the more speed we generate in the middle, the more pressure we'll put on opposing blockers.'

'I feel like this is one of the deepest group of middles we've had in some time,' continued the head coach. 'When we sat down at the end of last year, we knew our inside play had to be stronger for us going forward and I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far. If we're playing at our best, we should be able to help the effectiveness of our outsides, allowing them to produce similar numbers on less swings.'

Freshman Nia Grisby, who played scholastically at Central Dauphin, is the Maroon and Gold's newest middle.

Gump expects to again use multiple setters, starting with junior , who registered a career-high 421 assists (4.84/set) and totaled 215 digs (2.47/set) last fall. , a freshman out of Landisburg, and , a sophomore from Baltimore, Maryland, figure to also see time with James.

has been a rock at libero for the past two seasons. She's already surpassed 1,000 career digs (1,076) to rank ninth among KU's all-time leaders. The Bethlehem native's 582 digs in 2017 were third most in a single season at the school and her 494 last season ranked eighth.

At defensive specialist, the Golden Bears have sophomores and , who will be joined be freshman . Pascucci played in 20 matches as a freshman, collecting 18 digs.

Kutztown begins its season with a trip to the Shippensburg Raider Classic on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6-7. They'll host the Kutztown Classic next weekend to open their home schedule and follow with 10 home PSAC matches. The conference home opener is a crossover match slated for Friday, Oct. 4, against Edinboro.