Aug 26, 2013
Fresh off of the program's best season in the past decade, the Air Force volleyball team is set to embark on an exciting 2013 campaign.
Although they lost the program's all-time Division I digs leader Maiya Perich to graduation, the Falcons return all remaining starters from a team that accounted for their most overall (9) and conference (3) victories in nearly a decade, as well as four talented defensive specialists who are all willing to take on the vacant libero position.
Seniors Cami Richan (Highland, Utah) and Josalynn Wise (Amarillo, Texas), two members of head coach Matt McShane's first recruiting class, will pace a veteran lineup of 12 Falcons, who have all seen significant playing time in the Falcons' rotation
Richan, the co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, has averaged nearly three kills per set during each of the last two years as an opposite hitter, while adding a defensive spark as a back-row player. Wise, a setter by trade, took on a more defensive stance last year, averaging 1.49 digs per set. In addition to contending for the libero position, Wise provides the Falcons with an advantage of having an extra setter on the floor.
The junior class is paced by reigning MVP and setter Hillary Keltner (Belleville, Ill.), who had a strong sophomore campaign that included the fifth-most assists in a single DI season (1,018). In addition, Keltner proved herself to be an all-around player, adding 113 kills, 261 digs, 41 total blocks and a team-leading .253 hitting percentage.
In addition to being a standout defensive player (1.47 career average in digs), Dridge is also a fierce competitor from the serving line, tallying 35 aces in her first two seasons to lead all returning players. Hein, who will be playing her final season of collegiate volleyball after playing one year at Hofstra before transferring to the Academy, averaged 1.76 kills per set as a sophomore, while hitting over .200 and accounting for a team-best 70 total blocks. Although the playing time for Holt diminished last season, she had significant time on the court as freshmen and will be able to step into the lineup when needed.
Sophomore defensive specialists Rebecca Bates (West Chester, Pa.) and Rachael Bradley Powers (Albuquerque, N.M.) make up the additional contenders for the libero spot, as both had strong back-row seasons as freshmen, averaging 1.53 and 1.42 digs per set, respectively. The pair also posted strong numbers from the line, combining for 27 service aces (17 for Bates, 10 for Bradley Powers).
Joining the defensive duo is the program's co-Offensive Player of the Year and outside hitter Akokwe Clement (Long Beach, Calif.), middle Taylor Parker (Bozeman, Mont.), middle Raquel Rosas (Westminster, Calif.) and outside hitter Maggie Sherrill (Littleton, Colo.).
Clement, who accounted for 268 kills and 50 total blocks as a freshman, will once again form a solid presence at the net with Parker and Rosas. Parker, who spent volleyball's offseason as a member of the Air Force women's basketball team, tallied 62 total stops, while Rosas accounted for 29 blocks in an injury-shortened season. Sherrill, the 2012 recipient of the Coaches' Award, returns to the lineup with 172 kills and 23 blocks on her career stat line.
The Falcons added a trio of talented freshmen to the mix, as opposite hitter Savannah Banyai (Chandler, Ariz.), outside hitter Collette Foster (El Paso, Texas) and setter Lauren Ossolinski (Colorado Springs, Colo.) joined the Academy following strong prep careers.
Air Force, which opened the season on Friday, Aug. 30, at the Pioneer Classic in Denver, is scheduled to play one of the toughest schedules in program history.
Four of the Falcons' opponents for 2013 are ranked in AVCA Preseason Poll, including third-ranked Stanford, which Air Force will face in mid-September at the Service Academy Challenge. In addition, three opponents - Colorado State, Long Beach State and San Diego State - received votes in the sport's preseason rankings.
Air Force opens its home slate on Thursday, Sept. 19, when it starts Mountain West play hosting New Mexico on Falcon Court at East Gym. The Falcons will also host non-conference foes UC Riverside and Utah Valley on Sept. 21, as well as the Mountain West teams from Colorado State (Sept. 26), Wyoming (Sept.28), UNLV (Oct. 10), San Diego State (Oct. 12), Nevada (Oct. 24), Utah State (Nov. 7), Boise State (Nov. 9), Fresno State (Nov. 27) and San Jose State (Nov. 29).