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Volleyball Preview: 'Cats look to continue upward mobility

LEWISTON, Maine -- Coming off a season in which the Bates volleyball team qualified for the NESCAC tournament for the first time since 2004, excitement is high for the start of the 2009 season. The team returns all but one starter from 2008 and looks to build upon the improvements they made one year ago. Below is sixth-year head coach Brett Allen's brief overview of the upcoming season.

Versatility and reliability are two of senior Liz Leberman's greatest assets on the Bobcats volleyball team.

Front Row Utility


After two and a half seasons of playing middle and right side, senior Avery Masters (Mill Valley, Calif.) had a fantastic finish to the 2008 season, playing primarily as a right side. She completed the season as the third leading attacker in kills (190) and also finished fourth in attack percentage (21.9%). Masters also compiled 46 blocks on the season, good enough for second on the team. Masters will again compete for playing time in the front row and her experience as a senior will likely prove invaluable.

Chrissy Gee (San Francisco, Calif.) is another athlete who saw considerable playing time last year. She began the season as a right side and then bounced between outside and right side later in the season. Her addition as a first-year was vital to the improvement of the team because of her ability to play all six rotations. She helped the team as a primary passer and defender, and she provided depth in the front row as both a right side and outside hitter. She also finished second on the team with 50 aces.

Outside Hitter

After three seasons as the Bobcats' two primary outside hitters, Liz Leberman (Concord, N.H.) and Tess Dokus (Fairport, N.Y.) both return. Dokus led the team in kills as a junior with 247 and was also third on the team with a hitting percentage of 23.6%. After two solid seasons where she accumulated 204 (2006) and 173 (2007) kills, respectively, 2008 was definitely a breakout season for Dokus.

Leberman had arguably her best all-around season last fall while continuing to play all six rotations. Offensively, she again topped 200 kills (221), after 287 and 290 her first two seasons. However, her greatest impact last season was on defense and in serve receive. Leberman ranked second on the team in digs with 309, an average of 2.89 per set, and she handled 37% of the opponents’ serves at a rate of 88%. As she enters her final season, she now has 1,099 digs in her career and has a chance to become a player who reaches 1,000 kills as well. 

Middle Blocker

Following a solid first year, Olivia Schow (Costa Mesa, Calif.) returns for a second season in Alumni Gym. She was second on the team in attack percentage (24.3%) and was fourth in kills with 155. More important than statistics, however, Olivia helped establish a potent attack out of the middle, providing more balance offensively for the Bobcats in 2008. In addition to her offensive capabilities, Schow was also a solid server and finished third on the team with 47 aces.

Setter

Grace Haessler (Portland, Ore.) had a stellar campaign as a rookie last fall. She played in every match and, as the only setter in Bates' 5-1 offense, was a vital component to the team’s improvement last season. She led the Bobcats with 970 assists and 57 aces but also contributed defensively with 221 digs, good for fourth on the team. At 5-foot-11, Haessler is also a solid blocker who reads the attackers very well.

Back Row

In addition to the returners at other positions, there are three players with back row experience coming back for the fall in 2009 in senior Brittany “Bo” Johnston (Winter Park, Colo.), senior Kira Kramlich (San Francisco, Calif.) and junior Rachel Colby (Willimantic, Conn.).

Kramlich returns after spending a second season as the team libero in 2008. She led the team in digs with 390 for an average of 3.14 per set. Johnston was the primary defensive specialist last fall and finished the year with 183 digs (1.85 per set) and a service percentage of 91% with 19 aces. Colby will look to expand her role from a year ago, when she was used primarily as a serving specialist.

Newcomers

There will be three first-years doing their best to prove their worth and help the team improve upon last year: Nicole Russell, Eliza Pyne and Caroline Gattuso. Russell hails from the Pine Crest School in Florida, where she was libero for her high school team. Pyne comes to Bates from Menlo-Atherton High School in California, where she was a middle blocker for her team. Gattuso competed in the New England prep leagues at Phillips Andover.

Honoring the Undefeated 1989 Team

In honor of the 1989 volleyball team that finished the season undefeated at 36-0 and captured the ECAC Division III title, Bates will be hosting the team members for a 20th anniversary weekend during Homecoming, Sept. 25-26. Activities for the weekend will include a Friends of Bates Athletics reception, introduction of the 1989 team during both the Saturday home volleyball match against UMaine-Farmington and the football game that afternoon, and a Saturday evening dinner with current volleyball team members and parents.