2011-12 was a banner year for the University of Cincinnati – Clermont College volleyball team. The season saw the team reach the top of the Ohio Collegiate League, winning both the regular season title well as the conference tournament.
Setting a 24-6 mark, the Lady Cougars earned their sixth straight trip to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship tournament, reaching the quarterfinals before falling to Southern Virginia University.
Head coach Joe Harpring is optimistic that the 2012-13 season can breed similar success, although the team will have a completely different make up this spring.
“To be honest, we lost a lot of players (from last year’s team),” Harpring said. “Six of the 13 players. A lot of what we do this year is going to depend on who is on the team.”
The Lady Cougars have to deal with different situations than most colleges because they offer both two- and four-year programs. As a result, they are susceptible to much more turnover than other schools.
“We had girls that were in two-year programs that have graduated and moved on, so we had some bigger numbers leaving after last year,” Harpring said.
However, the Lady Cougars do have a solid core of talent coming back along with some new faces that Harpring has picked up on the recruiting trail that hopes to continue the programs long line of success.
The Lady Cougars will look to two seniors to lead the way in mixing the returning players with the newcomers.
Middle hitter Rachel Hays, an Amelia High School product, was named to the First Team All-Conference and First Team All-America last season. Hays will be aided by fellow senior Rachel Ferguson, a defensive specialist from Norwood High School.
“(Hays) should be a big impact player for us,” Harpring said. “And (Ferguson) should help us out in a leadership role.”
Also returning to the fold for the Lady Cougars will be juniors Becca Walton of Mercy High School and Haley Weber of Mariemont.
Harpring expects those two to play on the right side and hopefully fill some of their potential.
“(Weber) has incredible power and we’re looking for her to really take off this year,” he said.
Courtney Maier, a defensive specialist, and Kaitlyn Miller, an outside hitter, round out the returners from lat year’s team.
Harpring and his staff have added six other players whom Harpring expects to jump in and play big minutes, including three players from Clermont County.
Former Amelia setter Alex Robb along with outsider hitters Kiley Collins of Goshen and Glen Este’s Shannon Arnold will team up for Clermont.
The other three first-year players are outside hitters Heather Rowland of Norwood and Alex McPherson as well as setter and defensive specialist Ashley Gooch who recently moved to the area from Anchorage, Alaska.
The Lady Cougars got their first match under their belts on Tuesday, Aug. 21 as they played Miami University – Middletown and will go on to face the usual slate of tough teams, including two NAIA schools.
The team is hosting the UCC Volleyfest tri-match on Sept. 8 and the annual Cougar Classic, benefitting Volley for a Cure on Sept. 16.