Women's Volleyball Has High Hopes for 1999
Aug. 24, 1999
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The University of Virginia volleyball teamand fifth-year head coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton have high expectationsfor the 1999 campaign which begins with a match on September 1, againstVirginia Tech. The reason for the optimism is quite simple: the ‘Hoosreturn nine letter winners, including four starters, and are coming off anextremely successful 1998 campaign in which the team captured its firstNCAA Tournament berth.
“Our goal this season is to be a better team than we were lastyear. There are some areas of our game we need to work on before this canhappen. If we work hard enough in the gym, we can be great this season,”commented Aldrich Shelton.
In 1998, Virginia posted a 26-8 overall record and a 12-4 mark inthe Atlantic Coast Conference. The 12 ACC wins are a school record, easilysurpassing the 1996 team’s total of seven conference victories. Inaddition, the 28 wins are the second-highest in school history, onlytrailing the 29 victories posted by the 1989 squad. The Cavaliers werepicked to finish seventh in the 1998 preseason coaches’ poll, but had aterrific year and captured the second spot. The ‘Hoos went on to earntheir first-ever NCAA Tournnament bid, but fell to UCLA 3-1 in the firstround.
Virginia will not be able to sneak up on its opponents in 1999 asthe ACC coaches have selected the Cavaliers to finish second in theconference. With the return of four starters and nine letter winners,Virginia has gained the respect of the ACC. Two key players UVa mustreplace are Claire Folga and Amanda Wells, who both graduated. Bothplayers earned Second Team All-ACC honors in 1998. Folga, an outsidehitter, notched 253 kills, 303 digs and 27 service aces a year ago, whileWells registered 271 digs as the Wahoos’ defensive specialist.
Leading the way for the ‘Hoos in 1999 with be fourth-year middleblocker Jessica Parsons (Green Oaks, Ill./Libertyville), who was aFirst-Team All-ACC selection in 1998. Parsons was named to the All-ACCTournament team and to the All-District III squad. She was named the VaSIDPlayer of the Year as well. Parsons led Virginia with 492 kills and 151blocks, including 40 solo stops, and added 182 kills, while playing in all34 matches last season.
UVa’s opponents will not be able to focus their attention on justParsons in 1999 as the Cavaliers return three other players who totaledmore than 250 kills in 1998. Third-year outside hitter Andrea Fischer(Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara) had an outstanding 1998 season as sheposted 381 kills and 186 digs. Fischer is regarded as one of the mostpowerful hitters in the ACC and will be one of the Wahoos’ go-to players.Deanna Zwarich (Overland Park, Kan./Shawnee Mission), a third-year middleblocker totaled 321 kills to finish third on the team. She also led theteam with 46 serviceaces and added 103 blocks. Zwarich possesses great leaping ability and apowerful attack. Aldrich Shelton is looking for Zwarich to register morekills in 1999 and also increase her hitting percentage. Returning atoutside hitter is third-year Katie Jones (Kingwood, Texas/Kingwood), whohad a knack of making positive things happen throughout the 1998 campaign.She notched 280 kills and led the squad with 417 digs last year. Jones wasalso second on the club with 30 service aces.
Also expected to contribute to the outside hitting position arereturnees Whitney Bilger (La Jolla, Calif./Bishop’s School), Blair Miller(Birmingham, Mich./Seaholm) and Kristin Sherwood (Hagerstown, Md./N.Hagerstown). Bilger, a fourth-year, is a versatile player who leads byexample on the court. She appeared in 20 matches last season and totaled82 kills and 85 digs. Miller showed the most improvement of anyone on theteam during the spring season and Aldrich Shelton is looking for that tocarry over during the fall. As a first-year, Miller played in 19 matchesand posted 71 digs and 37 kills. Sherwood gained valuable experience onand off the court as a first-year in 1998 and is ready to make a solidcontribution in 1999.
In addition to Parsons and Zwarich at middle blocker, Virginia alsowelcomes second-year Jenny Harmon (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem). Harmonmissed the entire 1998 season with an injury. She has the athleticpotential to develop into a major force for the Cavaliers.
The three newcomers on the team are Kiersten Kaufman (Monroeville,Pa./Gateway), Simona Kuipers (Bow Island, Alberta, Canada/Senator Gershaw)and Laura Svette (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Kenston). Kaufman and Kuipers couldsee time at both middle blocker and outside hitter, while Svette ispenciled in at outside hitter. Kaufman is the most complete of the threefirst-years in terms of back row and front row skills. Kuipers is thefirst international player that Aldrich Shelton has recruited. Svette is anatural blocker who can hit from all three positions across the front row.
The setting position will also be a strength for Virginia in 1999with the return of fourth-year setter Mary Frances Scott (Phoenix,Ariz./Xavier College Prep), the school’s all-time assist leader, as well asthe addition of Cathy Arnette (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch), a transferfrom Villanova University. Scott broke Lisa Flowers’ school assist recordof 3,071 against Minnesota on September 4, 1998, and has 4,562 assistsentering her final season of eligibility. In 1998, Scott recorded 1,597assists and holds three of the top five Virginia single season assisttotals. She was also second on the team with 385 digs and tied for thirdwith 29 service aces. The addition of Arnette makes the setter positionthe deepest and strongest it has ever been at Virginia. After just twoseasons at Villanova, Arnette was fifth on the Wildcat’s all-time assistlist with 1,530.
With the graduation of Wells as Virginia’s top defensivespecialist, Aldrich Shelton is looking to third-year Kristi Winters (LosAltos, Calif./Los Altos) to solidify the ‘Hoos defense. Winters, one ofUVa’s most competitive players, played in all 34 matches in 1998, andposted 216 digs and tied for third on the squad with 29 service aces.Winters is also going to compete for playing time at outside hitter.
After opening the 1999 season at home against Virginia Tech onSeptember 1, the Cavaliers will host the Jefferson Cup September 3-4, atUniversity Hall. In addition to UVa, the Jefferson Cup features Ohio,Furman and Alabama. The team then takes to the road for tournaments atWilliam & Mary and South Carolina the weekends of September 10-11, andSeptember 17-18, respectively. Virginia commences its 16-match ACCschedule by hosting North Carolina and North Carolina State on September 24and 25.