2013 SUNY Potsdam Volleyball Season Preview
The Potsdam women's volleyball team comes off the heels of a four-win improvement from the previous year and a 23-win season, in which the Bears reached the second round of the SUNYAC Championships and received a bid to the ECAC Upstate Tournament.
A familiar face returns to the bench, but now in a different capacity. Josh Stokes, an assistant coach with Potsdam from 2009-2010, takes over the head coaching position after a highly successful tenure with both the women's and men's volleyball teams at Southern Vermont College.
In Stokes' three seasons as the Mountaineers' head coach, he led the women's teams to a 69-19 overall record, back-to-back conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2011 and 2012. His women's squad set the school record with 31 wins in 2011. Stokes also guided the men's team to Southern Vermont's single-season wins records in 2010 and 2011.
Stokes hopes to execute a more far-reaching ¬style of recruiting to the program that has extended into his hometown state of California where he lived for 26 years.
"Recruiting will be different," said Stokes, who has ties to high school and junior college coaches from the San Joaquin Valley to the coast. "I'm definitely trying to maintain my roots, but also install a new set of roots up here."
"I'm just trying to bring in more well-rounded volleyball players. There will be a lot of the same technical training and traditions [in relation to former coach Steve Pike]. We're going to carry on the leadership aspect because that is probably the most important thing—[to develop] good leaders, good citizens, heart and hard workers."
Entering the season, motivation has remained high for the Bears.
"One of the biggest strengths is that they're unified under themselves," Stokes said. "They are fully functional and self-functional. They are not seeking the direction of their coaches anymore because they know the direction they want to go in and their coaches want them to go in. That's great because we don't have to hold hands."
Instilling a West Coast offense that will embrace ball control with a fast and fluid pace, Stokes said he may use different lineup rotations depending upon the opponent.
"From a volleyball standpoint, they are definitely in a much better place than they have been before," Stokes added. "Ball control is a lot better. The volleyball is good and it's going to continue to get better."
Potsdam's senior returnees include three-year starting setter and two-time SUNYAC First Team selection Jenna Blujus, six-foot-one middle hitter Sara Anderson and outside hitter/right side Dakota Pruiss.
Blujus led the Bears in three statistical categories in 2012 with 1,130 assists, 84 aces and 473 digs. Anderson leads all returning players in kills with 193 and finished in a flourish by averaging 9.4 kills per match over her last nine. Pruiss appeared in 18 matches and had healthy averages of 2.57 points, 2.07 kills and 2.52 digs per set in limited play. Each average ranked among the top three on the team.
Junior returnees include outside hitters Liza Fields whom Stokes describes as "explosive and super athletic", Sharon Ofori, Tia Wright, and libero Gabby Arana.
Arana and Wright are coming off seasons in which each played in key reserve roles. Arana was third on the team with 247 digs while Wright tallied 105 kills including a season-high 13 against St. Lawrence last Oct. 2.
Sophomore returnees are libero/defensive specialist Allie Romaniello (66 digs) and setter/outside hitter Casey Chase (appeared in 14 matches).
The new Bears consist of a senior transfer and five freshmen.
Lauren Manzo, a senior setter, has already begun to demonstrate strong leadership and communication skills.
"It's great having Lauren [Manzo] here because she's a little bit older than the rest of the girls," Stokes said. "In her age and maturity, it's helping step up the maturity of the younger girls. It's continuing to work its' way down the line."
Looking to contribute to the void left by the exiting Kayla Howard (second on team with 256 kills, led team with 89 blocks), six-foot freshman Sarah Becker will get the opportunity to protect the net.
"We're hoping that she can bring us some heat," Stokes said.
Also, joining the team and adding depth to the roster will be freshmen Sloane Campbell, Whitney Coyle, Felicia Barr and Amara Pascuito.
Stokes is looking to gain some offensive flow from the Oneonta Invitational, which begins the season on August 29.
Potsdam will open the season with a pair of doubleheaders in the 44th annual Oneonta Invitational versus Hartwick College and Emmanuel College on Aug. 30 and then against Kean University and Oneonta State on Aug. 31.
The Bears will meet SUNYAC opponents Oneonta State, the defending SUNYAC East Division champions Cortland and Oswego State from Sept. 27-28 in SUNYAC pool play at Cortland.
Pool play will continue with home dates at the Maxcy Field House from Oct. 11-12 with games against SUNY Geneseo, Plattsburgh State and Fredonia State.
The final round of conference pool play is slated for Oct. 25-26 against host and defending West Division champions Buffalo State, SUNY New Paltz and Brockport.