New Look for Roughrider Volleyball
Yavapai volleyball has a new look for the 2007 season as the Roughrider Nation welcomes a new coaching staff and ten newcomers to the squad.
Head Coach Matt Cohen, a Concordia University graduate and native of Southern California, heads north from Phoenix with an impressive coaching resume intact. As the founder/director of the Arizona Volleyball Academy (AVA), Cohen has built one of the top clubs in the valley in just three years time. Lisa Oliver joins Cohen as his assistant for the ’07 campaign.
In addition to the four returning players, Roughrider fans will see ten new faces this season: Taylor Beilmann, Kayla Bia, Brittnee Eiler, Jody Gill, Jennifer Hess, Marley Slaughter, Whitney Wiltbank, Stacia Wolff, and South Mountain transfer Meghan McKindles are this year’s recruiting class.
“Lisa is responsible for the preseason training and has earned the respect of the players,” said Cohen. “It’s been a great fit.”
A quartet of sophomores in Jana Manygoats, Ashlee Rowe, Brittney Strumer, and Nicki Wanninger return for their second run at an ACCAC Division 1 Championship after finishing as runners-up last season. Quality leadership is vital to the Roughriders this year, and Coach Cohen is looking to these sophomores to provide that guidance.
“This sophomore group is full of experience and I am excited they are still here with this program because they are going to provide the leadership that is needed for the young players,” said Cohen.
YC begins the 2007 agenda with three conference matches before heading east to Salt Lake City, Utah for a tournament at Salt Lake City College. Cohen believes the early-season tournament gives the Roughriders good competition to prepare them for conference play. Several of the teams attending the tournament qualifed for the National Tournament in 2006.
The Green and Gold are also slated for a tournament at Eastern Arizona the following weekend where they will open with perenial power College of Southern Idaho.
The Floor General
Relying on a freshman to be the starting setter would make most coaches anxious, but Eiler came to Prescott ready to play and has already developed a rapport with her new teammates. As the teams “quarterback,” Eiler has the abilities, attitude and competitiveness to succeed immediately in ACCAC.
“I have full confidence in her,” said Cohen. ” She is going to come in confident and work hard to do the things she needs to do in order to make this team successful.”
Big Yet Quick
Strumer and Hess are likely to man the middle for the Roughriders this year. Last season Strumer averaged a block or more per game. Hess appears to have a knack for disrupting the opposition’s offensive flow, and could rank as one of the top blockers in the ACCAC over the next two seasons.
Wiltbank will also log some time as a middle blocker for the Roughriders. She should have no problem physically at the collegiate level and will be aided by the other two in the mental aspects of the game.
Stable of Horses
With seven outside hitters/rights side hitters on the roster, the competition for playing time is sure to be intense. Wanninger is the front-runner as she saw plenty of action last season on the outside. Rowe is another veteran that will contribute significantly once she is fully recovered from a ankle injury.
“Nicki (Wanninger) and Ashlee (Rowe) are going to be outstanding role models for the freshmen and help them come along,” said Cohen. “They both exemplify what it is we want from our players in this program, hard workers both on and off the court.”
“Garcia has made the commitment this preseason to raise her level of play,” said Cohen. “She understands her improved performance is key to the team’s success this season and is working hard to become an elite player.”
“Gill had a great preseason, the most improved player,” said Cohen. “I look for big things out of her, I really do.” “Beilmann will push for playing time on the right side and will also serve as the backup setter,” said Cohen. “Bia, who has played every position in practice will be a vital role player who could see time as a setter, right side, or quick hitter.
“We have a lot of options on the outside that bring us increased versatility; a great advantage that allows us to run all kinds of offense,” said Cohen.
Wolff will patrol the backrow in the libero position. McKindles and Manygoat will see time as defensive specialist. Coach Cohen believes defense wins championships at this level, therefore, all three will be counted on to help the team be successful.
“That gritty, all-out, tenacious type of volleyball is the style I like my team to play,” said Cohen. “And I think all three of these young women play that way.”