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2013 Women's Volleyball Season Preview
8/30/2013 — The 2012 season was a year of transition for Penn State Altoona women’s volleyball. After winning the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference title in 2011, the Lady Lions lost several key players from their roster. While the team still qualified for the AMCC Tournament in 2012, their 9-23 overall record and 4-5 mark in the conference were not up to the standard of success that the program expects.
With so much turnover on his roster last season, Peterman was forced to cobble together a lineup consisting largely of newcomers and inexperienced players – all of whom had little to no history of playing together. But this year, Peterman has a strong core of veteran players who will be counted on to lead the team from the very start, and he is excited about his squad’s potential.
“I have one senior, three juniors, and three sophomores. I’m looking forward to having a core starting lineup and just having to sprinkle in a few freshmen here and there,” said Peterman, who enters year six at the helm of the women’s volleyball program. “It will be nice this year to be able to give my freshmen time to practice, get comfortable, and get a grasp of the college game instead of having to throw them into the fire right away.”
Peterman’s returners are led by senior middle hitter Mariah McDowell (Morrisdale, PA/West Branch), who has proven herself to be one of the AMCC’s top players. McDowell picked up Second Team All-Conference honors last season, her first with Penn State Altoona after transferring from Mount Aloysius College. She ranked fourth in the AMCC in kills, averaging 2.79 per set, and fifth in the conference with a .237 hitting percentage. Her total of 326 kills last year ranks sixth-most in a single season for the Lady Lions’ women’s volleyball program. Needless to say, Peterman hopes to keep McDowell involved on the court as much as possible.
“I plan on Mariah getting the ball constantly this upcoming season. She has the potential to be the conference’s Player of the Year and also be First Team All-Conference,” he said. “I want the opposing defense to be worried that, every time we get a perfect pass, Mariah is getting the ball.”
One of the players charged with the task of getting McDowell the ball on a regular basis will be freshman setter Kristi Batzel (Osterburg, PA/Chestnut Ridge). The former two-time Sideling Hill League All-Star may be a newcomer to the team, but Peterman thinks Batzel can make an immediate impact in setting up his team’s offense.
“I’m hoping for Kristi to step up and take over the role of setter. She is going to stay in Altoona for four years, so it will be nice to have stability at that very important position,” Peterman explained. “She is doing a great job for us, and she has already made good connections with our hitters.”
Batzel will also be looking to distribute the ball to Becky Britton (Northern Cambria, PA/Northern Cambria) and Amanda Hammer (Greencastle, PA/Greencastle-Antrim), two returning sophomore outside hitters for the Lady Lions. Last year, Britton and Hammer gained significant experience by playing on a regular basis as freshmen. By season’s end, Britton was fourth in the team with 278 digs and fifth with 104 kills, and Hammer was third with 295 digs and second with 186 kills. Each player continued to improve over the course of the year, and Peterman expects bigger things from each of them in 2013.
“These two players are working extremely hard in the gym this year. They will continue to be in the starting lineup this year and be relied on heavily,” said Peterman. “Becky continues to impress me on a daily basis, and Amanda is hitting the ball with purpose and accuracy this year. The two of them will be relied on offensively to keep the blockers honest and free up Mariah in the middle.”
Adding an element of height at the net for Penn State Altoona is returning 6-foot-2 junior Moira Corrigan (Havertown, PA/Haverford), who accumulated 58 total blocks last year and ranked third on the team with 147 kills. She will be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best outside hitter, as well as providing some offense of her own.
“Moira is crucial to our team’s success. It’s my goal to keep her healthy all year long,” said Peterman. “We need Moira to provide blocking at the net to shut down the other team’s top outside hitter. Offensively, she is also unstoppable when she gets a good set. Most teams don’t have a player on the outside that can even touch as high as her reach.”
At libero, a pair of former high school teammates will be receiving the bulk of the playing time for the Lady Lions: junior Emily Frye (Etters, PA/Red Land) and freshman Emily Baker (Lewisberry, PA/Red Land). Frye led Penn State Altoona in digs last year with 449 for an average of 3.87 digs per set. Baker will push her for time, but Peterman expects both to contribute regularly.
“Regardless of which one of these Emilys step up, the other is going to be my defensive specialist,” he said. “With those two playing side by side, I don’t think too many balls are going to drop in the back row this year.”
Peterman believes that if his team can stay healthy and perform up to their ability level, they will have a very successful year. The Lady Lions were picked to finish fifth in the annual Preseason Coaches Poll, but Peterman knows his squad has its sights set on finishing much higher.
“The sky is the limit for this team. The key to our success will be getting rest and staying healthy throughout the year,” he said. “We have some injuries and soreness right now in our gym, but I am hoping we are all healthy in November.”
Penn State Altoona women’s volleyball opens its season on Friday, August 30 in the two-day Gettysburg College Battlefield Classic. Their first home match is on Wednesday, September 11 against Frostburg State University at 7:00 PM.
Photo: Senior middle hitter Mariah McDowell has proven to be one of the top players in the AMCC.