Volleyball Team Looks to Build on Strong 2017 Campaign, Compete for Conference Title
By Charlie Williamson, Sports Editor
With its first 20-win campaign in 11 years last fall, the Gettysburg College Women’s Volleyball team is coming into the new season with high expectations to take their first conference title and earn a berth to the national tournament.
Much of Bullets’ 2017 success stemmed from their four seniors, Stephanie Blair, Katherine Gilbert, Lauren Godshalk, and Maddie Weikert, who combined for 1,439 kills, 3,507 assists, 315 aces, 3,481 digs, and 371 blocks combined in their careers.
These women’s departure leaves the team with four pairs of big shoes to fill. But they’ve overcome challenges before. In the first match of the 2017 season, the team lost their top returning attacker, junior outside hitter Francesca Garison, to injury. However, the Bullets rebounded and took four straight games, winning the Battlefield Classic to start the season.
“We already have younger players stepping into those roles and proving their presence on the court,” junior defensive specialist Melissa Tringali said, responding to how the Bullets will fill the shoes of the four graduated seniors. “Expectations are definitely high for this season as I think they should be. We have a very talented team and we [can] achieve our goal of winning a conference championship.”
Tringali added that the team has thus far been very committed in the off-season and the gym, which has shown on the court. “We know that [it] [is] only possible to [win a championship] if we put in the effort everyday and never slack in the gym.” Tringali said.
The returning younger players are headed by sophomore outside hitter Allie Stranick. Stranick enjoyed a break-out first-year campaign, boasting 272 kills, 30 aces, 258 digs, and a kill-per-set rate of 3.36, good for 3rd in the conference. She also picked up All-Centennial Honorable Mention accolades.
“The sophomores and juniors have really stepped up,” Stranick said. “The energy is high on and off the court … [which] stems from our strong team culture.”
The team is young this year, with setter Rachel Gombatz the only senior. Stranick praised Gombatz’s leadership, saying that she has been making sure everyone is on the same page and focused heading into practices and training sessions.
“The group of seniors who graduated were key aspects of the team last year,” Stranick said. “However, the freshman class is extremely talented and will definitely be able to contribute a significant amount.”
The team will also benefit with the return of junior Francesca Garison from injury. In her first-year season, Garison put up 279 kills, 17 aces, and 163 digs. Garison’s kill per set rate was 2.91 her first year, good for second on the team at the time.
Both Tringali and Stranick agreed that the team culture has been positive and supportive headed into the season.
“Everyone is very excited for the upcoming season and is willing to put in the work to reach our goals,” Stranick said.
Gettysburg’s returning lineup is expected to be potent, with many of the projected starters already having ample experience on the team last year. Francesca Garison, Allie Stranick, and Kasey Higgins are expected to handle the major offensive duties, with junior Shannon Fletcher in the middle, and juniors Caroline Sequeira and Melissa Tringali holding down the back court.
The Bullets will open their season with three scrimmages against Messiah, Dickinson, and Lancaster Bible on Aug. 25, before opening regular season action on Aug. 31 against Messiah and Gallaudet University.