Air Force Volleyball: 2011 Season Preview
Aug. 22, 2011
The Air Force volleyball team might seem rather unknown, with no seniors, just four returners and nine newcomers. But under the direction of second year head coach Matt McShane, the Falcons will continue to build on the energy that took hold of the program last year and make Air Force a name in the Mountain West.
Although Air Force graduated seven Falcons from the 2010 squad, McShane brought in nine extremely talented newcomers to blend with his four dedicated returners.
Despite its youth, experience may help this year's squad. The four returning members know what it's like to win a Mountain West match - as the Falcons' defeated San Diego State 3-1 last year for the program's first conference win in five years - and the newcomers have known the taste of victory with their respective high school and club programs.
Air Force will be led by the team's lone junior, co-captain Maiya Perich (Houston, Texas), a defensive specialist, who has played in every match of her collegiate career. The defensive specialist, who has started over 20 matches in her first two, holds a career average of 2.24 digs per set which already ranks among the top 10 in Division I history.
Three sophomores return to the roster in 2011, including two that saw significant playing time as freshmen.
Cami Richan (Highland, Utah) came on strong in her first year, earning a spot in the starting rotation for 12 matches as an opposite hitter. She enters her second year as the team's top-returning offensive player, having amassed 77 kills in 2010. Richan also returns as the program's top blocker, having accumulated 18 total blocks (one solo, 17 assisted) last year.
Josalynn Wise (Amarillo, Texas) received valuable experience last season as the setter, as she played in 83 sets - including three matches as the starter. She recorded 257 assists during her first season, highlighted by a career-best 30-helper performance against Utah Valley. In addition to assisting on the offensive side of the court, Wise also excelled defensively with 122 season digs.
Colorado native Claire Bieber (Fort Collins) saw limited action in her first season, but is a tough competitor who challenged her teammates each day during practice. Bieber, a co-captain for the 2011 squad, made significant strides during pre-season practice and looks to earn a spot on the court.
In addition to the three returning sophomores, classmate Casey Boyle (Dallas, Texas) joined the squad at the start of fall practice to give the program added depth at the middle position.
McShane added eight talented freshmen to the roster, including a quartet from the state of Texas in Lizzy Carpenter (Murphy), Megan Clary (Sunnyvale), Emma Dridge (Allen) and Victoria Foster (El Paso). Ayesha Hein (Honolulu, Hawaii), Kristen Holt (Edgewood, N.M.), Hillary Keltner (Belleville, Ill.) and Brooke Pottle (Peoria, Ariz.) round out the Falcons' youngest class.
The newest Falcons bring a bevy of impressive resumes to the Air Force roster. The list includes three all-state selections in Clary, Holt and Pottle, as well as a conference MVP (Keltner), a regional player of the year (Pottle) and a three-time offensive MVP for her club team (Clary). It also includes members of a state championship team (Pottle), a regional championship team (Keltner) and two district championship teams (Dridge, Foster).
Dridge also played on the club team that won the 17 Open title at the USAV Junior National Championships, while Carpenter's high school team advanced to the Final 8 of the Texas 5A Championships. In addition, Hein spent the 2010 season as a member of the Hofstra volleyball team, amassing 153 kills, 24 service aces, 117 digs and 86 total blocks.
Air Force opens the season on Aug. 26 for the two-day Kristen Dickmann Invitational in Annapolis, Md., before hosting Northern Colorado on Aug. 30 at the Academy. The Falcons will then travel to the Denver Invitational (Sept. 1-2) and Aggie Invitational (Sept. 16-17), while hosting the second-annual Falcon Invitational on Sept. 9-10, against Utah Valley, South Carolina Upstate and Northern Arizona.
The Falcons open Mountain West action on Sept. 22 at Colorado State, before hosting New Mexico (Sept. 29), TCU (Oct. 1), Boise State (Oct. 8), Wyoming (Oct. 20), Colorado State (Oct. 22), UNLV (Nov. 10) and San Diego State (Nov. 12) at the Academy. The Falcons' Oct. 8 match against conference newcomer Boise State will be televised live on The Mtn. - MountainWest Sports Network.
After setting a new Division I attendance record in 2010 at its home venue, Air Force looks to continue creating an environment to make Falcon Court at East Gym one of the loudest and most feared venues in the conference.