Volleyball looks to build on success of 2013

Senior Taylor McMillen

BRADFORD, Pa. - Unfinished business will be heard early and often. That’s what is on the mind of the 2014 Pitt-Bradford women’s volleyball team as they return to the court this year. The 2013 season had a bittersweet ending for the Lady Panthers, having lost in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championship match after making a historic run as the No. 6 seed.   

Head Coach Tina Phillips, entering her 12th season at the helm of the program, is looking to guide the Lady Panthers back to AMCC Tournament for the 17th time during her tenure. She also wants back-to-back trips to the conference title game, a place they have been three out of the past four seasons that includes an AMCC title in 2010. She will have nine returners (four seniors, one junior and four sophomores) back, along with the addition of five new players.   

“When we lost in the finals last season and my players were watching the other team celebrate, I told them to hold their heads high and be proud of their efforts,” said Phillips. “I also told them to remember what this felt like to motivate them in the off-season and for this upcoming season.”  

“This team has great potential,” added Phillips. “We have a little more depth at a few positions and some versatility for different lineups. Every season brings new learning experiences, but I am looking forward to it.”

All-Conference player Taylor McMillen, a senior rightside hitter, again will be looked upon to lead the Lady Panthers’ offense. McMillen led the team in kills and was second in the AMCC in kills per game a year ago.

“Taylor is probably the hardest hitting player in the conference and is very smart,” said Phillips.  

Returning outside hitters include junior Jenessa Ceprish. Ceprish brings a different skill set and will be looked upon to play a large role in the offense this season.   

The coaching staff looks to the middle hitter position as the spot to be the most improved this season with the maturation of sophomores Kaitlin McCann and Brittany Watts. “We will be better and we have to be,” said Phillips about the position. Last season, both players played in all 123 sets. Each player also helped Pitt-Bradford lead the conference in blocks.      

Adding to the rotation will be freshman Erin Fagan, an all-league selection, who will add depth to the middle.    

The defense was young a season ago. The libero position returns sophomore Kelsey Repke, who finished third in the AMCC with 4.20 digs per game. Also returning is senior defensive specialist Michelle Ratzel. The Lady Panthers added talented freshmen Emily Reitz and Ceara Savard to the roster as well.   

The setter position looks to have the most depth it has had in several seasons. The Panthers return seniors Brittni Cumberland and Peyton Kauffman, as well as sophomore Megan Geary. Also joining the Lady Panthers is freshman Trish Zimmerman, who brings a lot of club experience to the team

“Brittni and Peyton gained more of a comfort level last season in running our offense,” said Phillips. “This will only add to our competitiveness in the gym.”