Volleyball 2013 Season Review

 

A year ago, the Muhlenberg volleyball team rode a green roster to its best season in recent memory. With the help of another infusion of young talent, the 2013 squad took the program even higher.

Laurainne Ojo-Ohikuare
Ojo-Ohikuare, the Mules' lone senior, finished her career with 321 kills and 77 blocks.
With a single senior to go along with four juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen, the Mules won 20 matches and made it all the way to the Centennial Conference championship match, reaching both milestones for the first time since 2001. Three years after finishing tied for last in the CC, Muhlenberg turned in an 8-2 mark in conference play and landed in second place behind Johns Hopkins, which took the tournament final in four sets.

After splitting their first eight matches of the season, the Mules turned the corner. A sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays dropped its CC record to 1-1, but Muhlenberg responded by winning its next six league matches. Two of those victories came in five sets, including the first over Haverford since 2001, which proved to be the turning point of the season.

The Mules’ first win over the Fords in 13 tries capped a six-match winning streak and announced their status as a bonafide contender. Muhlenberg staved off four set points in the first set and an early deficit in the fifth to rally for the watershed victory, and locked up a first-round bye in the conference tournament with a sweep of Swarthmore on the final day of the regular season.

In the playoffs for the first time in four tears, the Mules promptly took down McDaniel in four sets to reach the title match and end a drought that had lasted more than a decade.

Helping the program make the leap was one of its best newcomers in years. Allison Glass made her presence felt immediately on the front line, posting 301 kills (the second-most ever by a Muhlenberg freshman) and ranking 10th in the CC with 2.84 kills per set. Glass led the conference with 60 service aces, the most for a Mule in a decade, and was third on the team with 227 digs and fifth with 41 blocks. It all added up to an appearance on the All-CC second team and the school’s first CC rookie of the year award.

Joining Glass on the all-conference team for the second straight year, sophomores Katherine Boll and Chelsea Kaser built on their own stellar first seasons. Boll was named to the second team again, while Kaser received honorable mention after making the second team a year ago. Highlighting the Mules’ youth movement, it was the first time that all three players honored (tied for a program high) were freshmen and sophomores.

Allison Glass, Katherine Boll, Sarah Weyhmuller
Glass, Boll and Weyhmuller helped make Muhlenberg the CC's best blocking team in 2013.
Boll finished second on the team in kills per set (2.02), hitting percentage (.273) and total blocks (93). Her block total was third in the CC, while the hitting mark was the eighth-best total in the conference.

Kaser, meanwhile, paced the Mules with 420 digs, good for eighth on the program’s single-season charts. The co-captain averaged 4.39 digs per set in league matches, ranking fifth in the CC in that category.

From beginning to end, the three all-CC performers had plenty of help. Thanks to a balanced, well-rounded group that did just about everything well, the Mules moved their way up the record books as the dream season wore on.

Much of the 2013 season could be described as a block party. Muhlenberg led the CC in blocks with 238.5 blocks (and 2.04 per set), the fourth-highest total in team history and the most since 1999. Sophomore Joanne Josephson led the way with 94 rejections, placing her second in the CC, and Boll was right behind with 93, two of the top six single-season marks in program history. Add in sophomores (74) and Erin Murphy (54), and Muhlenberg had one of its best defensive units ever.

The Mules were no slouches on offense, either, finishing with their best hitting percentage (.195) since 1993. Muhlenberg even set a school record for a three-set match with a remarkable .520 effort against Rust on the team’s fall break trip to Memphis. Individually, Josephson’s .280 hitting percentage was the Mules’ second-best single-season total.

Setters Nikki Dickson, Vanessa Pulice and Ali Mayer helped the Mules mark a program record by averaging 10.55 assists per set. Each member of the trio averaged at least 4.40 assists per set.

The Mules also helped their competition to a healthy serving of aces. Their 23 against Rust set a school record for a three-set match, and the season total of 290 was the program’s highest since 2001.

Freshman Elizabeth Garrison performed well in her debut season, chipping in with 246 digs and an average of 2.18 per set.

Junior co-captain Holly Hynson (1.60 kills per set) helped out on offense, while senior co-captain Laurainne Ojo-Ohikuare had 47 kills in her final season as a Mule. Junior Julia Elkin aided the defense with 1.67 digs per set on the back line.