Volleyball Team set for PAC challenge

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Geneva College volleyball team

The 2010 Geneva College women′s volleyball season will undoubtedly be a very tough act to follow. A year ago, the Golden Tornadoes posted a 26-5 overall record, which broke the single season record for victories in a season. Additionally, Geneva cruised through the Presidents′ Athletic Conference schedule with a record of 16-2. The bad news for Geneva was that those victories didn't count for much as it was still entrenched in its final year of NCAA Division III provisional status. The good news for Geneva is the provisional status has been lifted and the 2011 season will be first in which the Golden Tornadoes can compete for a conference title. What is good news for Geneva may not be such good news for the rest of the PAC. In Geneva′s 16 victories against conference foes a year ago, over half of them were three game sweeps. So where does that leave the 2011 edition of Geneva College volleyball? That question will soon be answered by a solid returning core group of players along with some talented newcomers.

"Losing a three-time All-American player is a hard pill to swallow," says co-head coach Wendy Smith. "Adriane (Blake) was perhaps the best player in school history and replacing her will be no easy task but we have a bunch of hungry young ladies that enjoyed that taste of winning a year ago." Blake has led Geneva in kills in each of the past three years. Last year, she became the school′s first ever first-team NCCAA All-American after posting a conference best 408 kills. Geneva will also have to replace one of its fiery leaders in Laura Zerbe. "We lost a ton of leadership in those two players," says Curt Conser. "There is still a lot of experience returning but they will have some big shoes to fill."

Briana Mixter and Rachel Kuegler will need to pick up some of the slack left from graduation when it comes to senior leadership. The duo of Mixter and Kuegler has been on board with the Geneva volleyball program throughout the last three years of great success. Mixter combined her time between the starting libero and a fill-in setter. She led the team with 559 digs (5.48/gm) while also posting 301 assists. Kuegler was second on the team a year ago with 318 kills (2.97/gm) while also posting 29 service aces and 337 digs. "We have a pair of very special seniors," says Smith. "They have been around this program for four years and understand exactly what it takes to be successful. Briana and Rachel set a wonderful example for the rest of our team."

A productive class of juniors will prove to be an important group in 2011. With the likes of Kristland McCracken, Paige Banyas, Emily Bestor, Kirsten Ley and Maggie Bowersox, the Golden Tornadoes have a very solid group of experienced players to turn to. "We have some very good players and solid depth at almost every position," says Conser. "We will look for some of these ladies to take the next step in their progression of playing collegiately. Everyone will have to do a little bit more this year if we are going to reach our goals."

Maybe the most important component returning to the fold in 2011 comes from the sophomore class. After a sensational freshman campaign, Deanna Briody will again be holding down the setting position for the Golden Tornadoes. In her first year on campus, Briody led the PAC with 10.60 assists per game while claiming PAC All-Coaching Honors. "Deanna was in the middle of everything we did last year," says Smith. "We give her a lot of responsibility as our leader on the court and she had a great first year. She has set a very high standard and precedent that we will look for her to reach in 2011."

As Geneva embarks on its first season as an active member of the Presidents′ Athletic Conference, the question arises which Geneva athletic program will be the first to break the ice as a conference champion. If the 2010 season is any indication, the women′s volleyball team will have just as good a chance as any of raising that championship banner at season′s end.