ST. LOUIS, Mo.— The Fontbonne University women's volleyball team gets its 2017 season underway this weekend and they've got their eyes set on returning to the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Tournament.
The Griffins (13-16; 8-10 SLIAC), missed the 2016 SLIAC Tournament but did close out its regular season on a high note where they won five out of its last six games.
The team did see Kersten McDonough (First Team), Mariana Rogers (Third Team) and Lynsey Wehrenberg (Third Team) collect All-Conference Honors at the end of the year.
McDonough led them on the offensive side of the net with 432 kills and a hitting percentage of .376. She closed out her career the all-time leader in attacks (3,982) and kills (1,388). She's a three year First Team All-SLIAC selectee and was named the SLIAC Offensive Player of the Week this past season.
Rogers, a Munster, Indianapolis, native, was named to the All-Conference Team for the first time in her career after she led the Griffins defensively with 506 digs, 322 of which came against SLIAC opponents.
Wehrenberg, meanwhile, became just the second Griffin to total over 2,000 assists and 1,000 digs in the history of the program. In 2016, the now departed senior set new career-high marks in assists (678), digs (349) and service aces (35).
"Last year's season saw its share of ups-and-downs," said head coach Meredith Heater. "While the majority of our team was seniors, we had high hopes of making the conference tournament for a second straight year, but we fell short of that. We were able to play at an extremely high level against some of the top teams in conference and had some big time wins over Spalding and Webster, two teams who finished in the top four of our conference."
She added, "We also went five sets with Westminster on both meetings and lost by just a few points in the final set. Our struggles just came when we didn't sustain that high level against mid-range teams."
This year, Coach Heater brought in plenty of new players in hopes of getting back to the SLIAC Tournament and replacing those departed seniors.
Eason is coming off a 2016 season where she hammered home 267 kills and a hitting percentage of .188. McKenzie closed out with 192 kills and was a force on the net with 51 blocks, while Schaller looks to build off her 181 assists and 115 digs heading into her sophomore season.
"Those players will see significant time this year, especially Eason as she will be one of our only six rotation players to never leave the game. All three have improved over their careers and I'm excited to see them continue to get better and step into leadership roles this year with all their new teammates."
"Curtice is a transfer from California where she played both Indoor and Beach Volleyball for El Camino College," said Heater. "She will be filling one of our open Middle Blocker roles this year and she does a great job both offensively and defensively. Tallo is freshman Outside Hitter who will immediately see playing time and we'll look to her to eventually be a good six rotation player for us as well."
In this years' SLIAC Preseason Poll the Griffins were picked to finish sixth in the conference. With the new team she's brought in though, Coach Heater is expecting her team to turn some heads and climb back up the standings in 2017.
"This year's team shows so much promise and potential," added Heater. "They have high volleyball IQ's and lots of experience playing good high school, junior college and club programs which will help them easily transition to the college game. I expect them to surprise a lot of people in the SLIAC with their determination, energy, and skill. Our goal is to get back to the conference tournament and make that the standard for the program."
The team will hit the court this Friday at the Illinois College Tournament where they'll play host Illinois College at 3 p.m., followed by an outing against Earlham at 7 p.m. Then, on Saturday, they'll go toe-to-toe against Trine at 12 p.m., and they'll close out the tournament against Knox College at 2 p.m.
Fans make sure to stay updated on fontbonnegriffins.com throughout the year for full updates and recaps on the women's volleyball team.