East Carolina Volleyball Preview: Part One
Aug. 24, 2010
This is the first of two segments previewing the East Carolina volleyball team's 2010 season. Check ECUPirates.com Wednesday for the second installment which will focus on the back row and setters.
The Pirates kick off the campaign Friday at 7 p.m. against Charlotte as part of the East Carolina Classic at Minges Coliseum.
GREENVILLE, N.C. - It is said that a student-athlete's biggest improvement occurs between his or her freshman and sophomore seasons. Although the East Carolina volleyball team touts six freshmen this campaign, head coach Pati Rolf hopes the mantra holds true and her "sophomore" season at the helm produces greater results.
Following the graduation of seniors Hannah Fenker, Katie Prast, Bobbie Jo Stall, Stephanie Turner and Melissa Zentner, as well as the departure of juniors Lizzy Bruin and Kylie Gilmore, the 2010 roster has a new look but does not lack in experience. Many of the returners were among the team leaders in a number of statistical categories a year ago.
The lone senior on the roster, former Pirate softball standout Marina Gusman-Brown, is quick and athletic, which should put her in position to compete for immediate playing time at the outside hitter position. Redshirt junior Britney Roper returns after ranking second on the squad in 2009 with 2.55 kills per set and will hold down the right side of the attack, a position at which Turner excelled the last four seasons. As the tallest member of the squad this year, Roper's height should prove an asset and cause problems for the opposing block.
After having to perform back row duty last campaign, junior Amanda Lutzow will slide up to the front looking to duplicate her freshman season output. In 2008, she put down 185 kills in 31 appearances and collected double-digit kills in eight matches. Lutzow is also a defensive stalwart, leading the squad in 2009 with 2.41 digs per set and setting a career best with 22 against in-state rival UNC Wilmington.
The freshman duo of Hannah Allgood and Whitney Campbell comprises the remainder of the outside attack corps. Allgood, who was recently named 2009-10 Forsyth County Athlete-of-the-Year, earned Piedmont Athletic Conference of Independence Schools (PACIS) Player-of-the-Year and North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association All-State honors. She also earned three nods to the PACIS All-Tournament Team. After transferring from Forbush High School after her freshman season, she led the Furies to 30 wins while posting 612 kills, 521 digs, 120 aces and 49 solo blocks to round out her prep career.
Meanwhile, Campbell helped Scotland County High School to a 93-7 record during her four seasons with the team and earned three all-conference selections. She also holds the program's career (780) and single-season (333) records for kills. Her hard-hitting, aggressive style of play should benefit the Pirates right away.
Due to the ongoing injury problems of redshirt sophomore Briana Fleener, she will not compete for ECU this season. That leaves the onus on junior Jackie Varnum and redshirt sophomore Kelly Derby to comprise the middle attack and fill that void in 2010.
Varnum, a transfer from Gulf Coast Community College, holds the school records for blocks and kills and was named to the All-Panhandle Conference Team her freshman and sophomore campaigns. She amassed 257 kills, 254 block assists and 138 solo blocks in two seasons. Varnum also brings intelligence to the court after twice earning all-state academic laurels. The coaching staff has been impressed with her work ethic and leadership during the preseason.
After an injury that sidelined her just a few weeks before her collegiate debut, Derby responded strongly in her first year of competition for East Carolina. She owned the second-best blocking average on the squad (0.80 per set) and was third in total blocks (65) as well as fifth in kills (94). Derby recorded a career-best 11 kills against UNC Wilmington, hitting .688 in the match, before tallying a personal-high eight blocks at Tulsa.