CHARLESTON, S.C. - The College of Charleston kicks off the 2012 volleyball season with the Hampton Inn & Suites West Ashley Invitational at TD Arena, featuring Sacramento State, Jacksonville and N.C. State. The tournament will mark the first competition for all four competing schools in the 2012 season.
Friday, Aug. 24, will feature two matches with N.C. State-Jacksonville starting at 4:30 p.m., and College of Charleston-Sacramento State at 7 p.m. There will be four matches on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. with N.C. State-Sacramento State. The Cougars will play Jacksonville at noon and then conclude the tournament with a match against N.C. State at 7 p.m.
The Cougars are coming off a successful 2011 campaign where the team went 25-10 and 14-2 in conference play, winning the Southern Conference South Division and posting the top record of the regular season. The Cougars advanced to the title match of the Southern Conference Tournament before losing to Samford, 3-0. The regular season divisional title and the SoCon tournament title match appearance marked the 11th straight year that the Cougars have won the tournament or regular season and been in the title game in each season.
College of Charleston was 6-7 in four non-conference tournaments last season. The Cougars won the Georgia State Invitational on the road and the Hampton Inn Invitational at home.
FOLLOW IT LIVE
The Charleston Sports Network will broadcast all CofC matches on CofCSports.com. Fans can purchase each match for $1.99 per event, $8.95 per month or $54.95 per year. Fans can watch each match with high resolution footage, multiple camera angles, professional graphics and in-depth commentary.
The Cougars hold a 5-2 advantage over Jacksonville in the all-time series, with the two schools last playing in 1997, a 3-0 CofC loss.
CofC and N.C. State have only played once before in the D-I era, a 3-0 Wolfpack win in 1995.
This weekend will be the first time that the Cougars have faced Sacramento State.
College of Charleston returns to the hard court after a successful sand volleyball season and a regular season division title in indoor volleyball last year.
The Cougars will look to replace three graduated seniors as well as two underclassmen who transferred. The loss of first team All-SoCon middle blockers Elyse Chubb and Sarah Havel will prove to be the biggest hurdle at the outset of the season. Both players rank in the top five in school history in career blocks as they led the CofC front line last year.
Stepping in for Chubb and Havel will be Kerstin Koehler, Catey Warren and Grace Rebarchak. Koehler has the most experience of the three, playing 54 sets last season with 45 kills and 13 blocks. Warren played sparingly in her freshman campaign, but has used the offseason to improve dramatically while Rebarchak will compete for playing time as a talented freshman.
The Cougars will have plenty of depth at the outside hitter position with All-American transfer Darcy Dorton and skilled freshmen Kari Fidelholtz and Melissa Morello joining a group that did not lose anyone from last season. Lizzie Theesfeld returns after a freshman campaign that earned her SoCon All-Freshman honors (217 kills, 262 digs) and senior Kelly Kolich and junior Emily Neideffer have continued to improve over the course of their careers. The talented depth at this position will make the Cougars very dangerous as the season wears on.
The SoCon's Freshman of the Year in Sloane White returns in the right-side hitter position. Last year, White led the team with 374 kills and she was named to the SoCon All-Tournament team after a strong performance in the championship match.
The Cougars will look to replace departed senior Hayley Harrell in the back row as Emily Shelton and Andi Zbojniewicz return to lead the defense. Playing at libero, Shelton finished near the top of the conference last season with 620 digs as she continues to move up the CofC record books. Zbojniewicz became a standout defensive specialist as a freshman and will be called upon for an increased role this year.
CofC has two able setters in juniors Kallie McKown and Taeler Davis. McKown began 2011 as the starter before Davis became the main setter for the second half of the season. Both players will be strong options for Kepner as 2012 gets underway.
COUGARS PICKED TO WIN SOUTH DIVISION
The College of Charleston volleyball team was selected to finish first in the Southern Conference South Division by the league's coaches in the 2012 preseason poll.
This marks the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Cougars have been picked to win the South Division. Last year, CofC won the division with a league-best 14-2 SoCon record, advancing to the SoCon Tournament title match. Samford, the 2011 tournament champions, were picked to finish first in the North Division.
Sophomore Sloane White, the 2011 SoCon Rayna Taylor Freshman of the Year, was the lone CofC representative on the eight-person Preseason All-Conference team. White led the Cougars with 374 kills along with 140 digs and 83 blocks.