The University of Cincinnati – Clermont volleyball team enters the 2018 season looking to build on a strong 2017 campaign.
Head coach Josh Hamer said while the team’s overall record in 2017 wasn’t as good as they had hoped, the season was still a success.
“Last season was very successful,” Hamer said. “Our finishing record wasn’t where we wanted it to be, as far as wins-losses. We got a sixth seed at the national tournament, and we competed well. We finished fifth. We had a really tough schedule to prepare for that, but it was a big year for us. We had a first-team All-American libero, a second-team All-American middle hitter and several USCAA players of the week throughout the season.”
Kelsie Holland is back for the Cougars, coming off a season last year that earned her a first-team All-American nod.
“She’s our returning libero,” Hamer said. “She led the USCAA in digs per set and total digs. I look for her to have a really big year.”
Kim Davis begins her sophomore season for the team in 2018. Hamer said Davis has improved her game over the summer.
“She had a very good season as a freshman middle last year,” Hamer said. “She’s put in a ton of work over the offseason. She’s increased her vertical by two or three inches. She’s a lot faster than she was last season. She put in a lot of work and I’m excited to see that pay off for her.”
In addition to England and Jenkins, Ashley Fraley, Kim Davis and Hannah Holscher return for the team. The remaining 10 players on the roster are all freshman, several of whom have local ties. Haley Fannin played at Eastern Brown, while Corrine Ray graduated from Hillsboro. Emily Geise played for the Milford Lady Eagles.
Hamer said playing with that amount of freshman can be difficult, especially since the team has 35 matches scheduled this season.
“It’s very challenging, especially with 10 freshman,” Hamer said. “It can be a grind, for sure, but I feel like if you want to be a national contender, you have to put at least 28-30 matches on the schedule. I think it’s a necessary evil to have not only a tough schedule but a lot of matches.”
Hamer said having so many players on the roster is crucial given the length of the team’s schedule this season.
“When you’re playing 30 plus matches in the regular season, you have to have a roster that size to keep people healthy and give people rest,” Hamer said. “Even though it’s challenging, I think the payoff is definitely worth it. It gives us more tools in our arsenal and it builds the program year to year.”
Several teams will pose a challenge to the team this season. The squad faced Florida National University on Friday, August 31, falling in three sets. Florida National placed third in the USCAA tournament in 2017.
Florida National finished 3rd in the tournament last season. The Cougars also face teams from outside the USCAA this season, along with some schools the team is not familiar with.
“We’re playing Thomas More College, an NCAA Division III school,” Hamer said. “They’ll be a challenge. There are no easy games, and that’s purposeful. There are some new teams that we’re not familiar with, such as Johnson University and Welsh College. We’re looking forward to seeing what they’re like as well.”
Hamer said he believes the team will have several different strengths this season, starting with their knowledge of the game.
“All the returners are very smart players,” Hamer said. “All the players that are coming in played for good clubs or competitive high school teams. The IQ level is going to be stronger this season, and I think our speed is going to be a lot stronger this season. We also have a returning All-American libero, so I can’t ignore defense. Defense, speed and our IQ are going to be where we win matches.”
The Cougars return to the court for a trio of home games this weekend. The team hosts Hocking College at noon on Saturday, September 8 and Welch College at 4 p.m. They also face Penn State DuBois on Sunday, September 9 at 2 p.m.
Hamer said the team has to be able to take things slowly in order to take the next step in 2018.
“We just have to enjoy the process,” Hamer said. “Enjoy the grind. We have to take one match at a time, one set at a time, one point at a time. We try to play every point as if it was match set point. If we do that, we’re going to see a lot of success.”