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Volleyball Preview: Seasoned team carries bright outlook

Liz Leberman '10 (right) and Beth Billington '09 (lower left) are key pieces of the Bates volleyball team's fortunes in 2008.

The Bates volleyball team has lost only two players from last year’s roster and returns for the fall 2008 season with depth and bright expectations.

“We are excited to start and improve on our season from a year ago,” said Brett Allen, who begins his fifth season as the team’s head coach. “With the return of nearly all of last year’s team, plus the addition of four new players, there will be more competition for playing time this season. This should increase the level of intensity during practices and performance during matches.”

A host of experienced players will be returning, including juniors Kira Kramlich (San Francisco, Calif.) and Brittany Johnston (Winter Park, Colo.), the team's leading digger last year, on the Bobcats’ back row defense; both starting outside hitters in juniors Liz Leberman (Concord, N.H.), the team's leader in kills each of the past two seasons, and Tess Dokus (Salem, Conn.); and three other key front-row players in senior Beth Billington (St. Paul, Minn.), junior Elise Edmonson (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and junior Avery Masters (Mill Valley, Calif.). Sophomores Rachel Colby (Willimantic, Conn.) and Katelyn Gilardi (Prides Crossing, Mass.) will compete for playing time in the back row, and Phoebe Reed (Brooklyn, N.Y.) will do the same in the front row.

First-year players include middle blocker Olivia Schow (Costa Mesa, Calif.), setter Grace Haessler (Portland, Ore.), right side Chrissy Gee (San Francisco, Calif.) and back-row specialist Helen Yuan (Newton, Mass.).

Allen is optimistic about this year’s team and the improvement the players have made. He expects solid performances from the team in the fall.

Last year, the team concluded the season with a 7-24 record and did not qualify for the NESCAC tournament. But Allen feels good about the improvement the players have made, and the Bobcats are focused on qualifying for the NESCAC Championship by working hard and uniting as a team.

“The main focus needs to be on the present and coming together as a team on and off the court. In addition, playing hard, enjoying the competition that athletics provides, and having fun are always keys to having a great season,” Allen said.

The squad will open the season at the Colby Invitational on Friday, Sept. 5, with a match against Husson College. The Bobcats will then face Swarthmore and Gordon on Saturday at Colby. Their first home match will be Friday, Sept. 19 against NESCAC opponent Tufts University.