NEWTON, Mass. – After making their first Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) tournament appearance since 2012, the Mount Ida College women's volleyball team may enter the 2016 season with a little bit of swagger, and Head Coach Craig Martin thinks that at the end of the year, they will prove that they were entitled to do so.
"I think that we are going to surprise some people this year," said Martin, who thinks the team in his fifth year of coaching will exceed their pre-season ranking, where they were voted tied for ninth by the conference coaches. "I don't think it would be a surprise to us, as we feel like we are an even stronger playoff team this year."
That confidence comes from a ten-member class of new players that Martin has brought in which he thinks will solidify the lineup of solid returning talent, including outside hitters Mary Kate Reidy (Agawam, Mass.) and Kristy Walton (Fairhaven, Mass.).
Reidy was third in the conference last year in kills (331) and kills per set (3.21) and was selected to the GNAC All-Conference Second Team, while Walton turned in a promising freshman season with 221 kills, good for 15th in the GNAC.
Setting for the two outside hitters will be freshman Alexis Bell (Salem, Conn.), who Martin described as "extremely athletic."
In the middle, senior Molly Alkinburg (Port Deposit, Md.) returns for her final season after posting a team-leading 43 blocks a year ago. The interior will be bolstered by the presence of sophomore Meghan Martowski (Ludlow, Mass.) and freshman Hanna Simpkins (Walpole, N.H.).
Making up for the loss of career digs leader Kelcey Koolman will be a tall task for the Mustangs, but Coach Martin likes the tandem of freshmen Eleni Tsetsos (Waterbury, Conn.), Katherine Eastwood (Amityville, N.Y.) and Emily Stagnaro (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) to step up to the challenge.
Senior Alysha Dunbar (Quincy, Mass.) will also bring experience into the mix. Dunbar averaged 1.35 kills, 2.06 digs, and .56 service aces per set last year.
The Mustangs open their 2016 slate of games at home on September 1st when they host Becker and continues with a home tri-match on Saturday the 3rd against Daniel Webster and Lyndon State.
September 6th against Pine Manor is their final home game to start the season, and the next time the Mustangs will be on their own court is September 21st when they start GNAC play against Emmanuel.
The regular season will end with a home tri-match as well, as the Mustangs celebrate Senior Day on October 28th and host Anna Maria and Norwich.