A year removed from being upset in the quarterfinal round the
ODAC Tournament, the first time the Generals had not reached at
least the semifinal round since 1996, Washington and Lee Head
Volleyball Coach Bryan Snyder feels as though he has a team that
can reclaim the conference crown.
"I am very excited for this season," said Snyder. "We had great spring, the girls came arrived in great shape and they are picking things up even quicker than last year. I really am excited for the season to start."
Snyder's excitement is fueled by a solid group of returning players that will be supplemented by a very strong group of first-years.
Headlining the returnees are a pair of 6-footers, middle blockers Lindsey Dee and Louise Brooks. A senior, Brooks was a First Team All-ODAC selection a year ago after recording 296 kills and 75 blocks. Dee enters her junior season after recording a team-high 93 blocks to go with 187 kills.
"Lindsey had a great spring, came into camp in really good shape and could be poised for a big year," noted Snyder.
Of Brooks, Snyder said "she is a known commodity. A real solid player for us and I would expect her to have another good season."
Adding some depth to the middle of the Generals' lineup is first-year Emily Hudson, who has surprised the coaches with her strong play in the preseason.
"She was a bit of an unknown coming in," Snyder pointed out. "She has good size and has done a great job competing in practice and will probably get some time on the court this season."
Manning the defensive specialist positions is a group of returnees that have all seen time and provide Snyder with perhaps his deepest position on the team. Seniors Summer Goldberg, Jenna Finger, junior Megan Tomlinson and sophomore Cameron Hill provide Snyder with a plethora of options.
Goldberg, one of this season's tri-captains, played in 107 sets last season and notched 195 digs and a team-high 34 service aces. Finger has seen time both as a DS and as a setter in her first three seasons. Last year, she posted 191 assists to go with 218 digs. Tomlinson, another one of this season's captains, had 129 digs and 22 service aces in 2009. Hill earned All-ODAC Honorable Mention accolades in her debut campaign after recording 502 digs and playing in all 117 of W&L's sets.
"All of them can play and all of them will play," Snyder stated. "That group gives us a lot of depth. They make practice so much better with their ball control. Its just finding the right combination to see who plays where, but they are all going to see the court."
The setter position is in stark contrast to that of defensive specialist, at least in terms of experience. Joining the aforementioned Finger is junior Colorado College transfer, Annie Bernacchi, and first-years Nikki DelZenero and Meghan Meleski.
Snyder may not be sure who exactly is going to gain the lion's share of playing time, but he likes all of their athleticism and sees a great deal of potential in this group.
"It's a really tight battle right now in practice," said Snyder. "They do very well in practice, but given that we have not seen them in game action yet, it's going to be interesting to see how well they do."
Snyder pointed out the different learning curve that each player is currently.
"For the first-years its learning how to do new things," he said. "For Annie its learning how to do things differently, learning new terminology and breaking old habits, while for Jenna its about constantly improving and showing the others how things are done."
Sophomores Bailey Walker and Taylor Maxey are currently battling to see who will play on the right side. The left-handed Walker played some there as a first-year, recording 48 kills and 14 blocks, while Maxey played primarily as a middle blocker in her rookie season.
"It's a great battle right now between the two of them," exclaimed Snyder. "Bailey is a year better now and has really learned to cut down on her errors and looked to expand her role."
Maxey is the team's tallest player, standing 6-3, and Snyder noted how the team must adapt to her size a little bit.
"It takes a little while to adjust to a player of Taylor's size, but if we can put her in a good position more often than not she is going to be able to help us," he said.
Opposite Maxey and Walker, will be junior captain Megan Daily and first-years M.A. Boles and Allison Rouse.
Daily finished fourth on the team with 158 kills and added 103 digs and 22 blocks in 2009.
"She is a really cerebral player," Snyder pointed out. "She won't wow you with her physical abilities, but she has a knack for turning a negative into a positive and just always seems to get the job done."
His two first-years have drawn rave reviews in camp thus far and he expects them to be big contributors in their first seasons.
"M.A. is the type of player that can do it all for us," quipped Snyder. "She has all the physical tools and is a very smart player as well."
Rouse has been slowed by a slight injury of late, but has also shown flashes in camp and, along with Boles and Daily, gives Snyder three very strong options on the outside.
With a talented roster at his disposal, combined with a slightly different team attitude, Snyder likes his team's chances heading into 2010.
"Obviously we want to take back the ODAC title and now we have a little bit of a more hungry attitude as opposed to a 'come and get us' attitude and I think that will help us this year," he said.
W&L's 2010 season opens on Friday when its takes on McDaniel at 5:30 pm as part of the 20th-annual W&L Invitational.