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Season Preview: A Determined Wilmington University Volleyball Squad Sets Its Sights Deeper for 2013 Campaign
A step away from its ultimate goal a season ago, the Wilmington University volleyball team will be looking for more as the 2013 campaign begins this weekend with an in-region tournament at the Charger Invitational in New Haven, Conn.
The Wildcats went a stunning 28-6 overall, capturing the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference South Division and the South’s number one seed in the CACC Tournament by going 18-1 in the conference. The team ran through Post in the CACC Quarterfinal before coming all the way back from a 2-0 deficit against Georgian Court in the Semifinals. The dream season came to a close in the CACC Tournament Championship match.
Leading the team looking for its first CACC Tournament Championship since 2004 will once again be head coach Kim Habbert, returning for her 10th season at the helm of the Wildcats. Ross Barlow keeps the duo together for another season, as he also returns for his 10th season as the team’s assistant coach.
“We still have that bitter taste in our mouths from last year which will hopefully help us play better and with an edge this year,” Habbert said. “We fell a step short of our desired goals last year and they are anxious to get going again this season.”
The team returns five starters and the libero from a team that was one step away from the NCAA Tournament last year, and brings in four freshmen to replenish roster.
The tallest order of business returning to the Wildcats starting lineup comes in the form of the six foot three inch middle hitter and reigning CACC Player of the Year Katie Shorter. The senior was also the first All-Region player in Wilmington’s program history as year ago, earning Daktronics First Team and AVCA All-East Region last year.
Joining Shorter in the middle is three-time Second Team All-CACC player Brittany Biddle, forming a duo in the middle unlike any other in the conference.
“Although we may be stronger on the outside this year, which makes us better as a team, it’s our middle that change the game and the overall dynamics of our offense,” Habbert said of her two senior middles. “It all starts with them.”
Sophomore Kaitlin DiGiaCinto, who earned All-CACC Honorable Mention as a freshman, returns on the outside for the Wildcats. Joining the young group on the outside will be freshman Allison Briley who will bring height and a blocking ability to the net that wasn’t there in years past. Fellow freshman Taylor Rapuano also adds depth to the outside for the Wildcats.
Competing for the right side is a core of four young student-athletes all battling for the open spot. Sophomores Hannah McQueen, Hannah Karas, and Nicole Shuba return for their second season on campus while Habbert welcomes freshman Tia Williams to the mix.
Setting for the hitters will be junior Kasey Couch and sophomore Alex Siolos, both returning in the same position from a season ago. Couch, more of the traditional setter, will pace the offense while Siolos will also play the right side when not setting.
The back line will be anchored by a mix of young and old as Annie Scarfo brings three years of experience to the defensive side of the ball while sophomore Shelby Henderson returns after playing in 114 sets from a year ago. Freshman Jessica Starr will also get in the mix once she gets up to game speed after returning from a preseason injury.
“We have five returning starters, which is good for us without knowing who everyone else has brought in, but we are still a young team,” Habbert said. “Of the 14 girls on the roster, 10 are either a freshman or a sophomore.”
The team was selected to repeat as CACC South Division Champions in the CACC Preseason Poll, earning 12 first place votes and 96 total points (both the most among either division). Caldwell was selected to finish first in the North Division with nine first place votes and 91 total points, but it’s the team in second in the North Division that took the Wildcats out in both the regular season and in the CACC Tournament Championship (Dominican).
“We are as good, if not better, than we were last year. Our goals remain in the same from last year in we don’t just want a South Division title, but a conference championship is what we are working for.”
The first opportunity to catch the Wildcats at the WU Athletics Complex is on Tuesday, September 17 when they take on their South Division rivals Georgian Court at 7 p.m.