2017 IN REVIEW: The Ashland University volleyball team finished the season with a 14-15 overall record and qualified for the GLIAC Tournament. The Eagles carried a program-record 23-match home winning streak into late October, including a win over then-No. 17 Ferris State at Kates Gymnasium. The Eagles had three players – rising juniors Shelby Woycik and Michaela Ping and rising senior Reanne Neal – named to the All-GLIAC teams.
FOEMAN TAKES OVER PROGRAM: The 2017 season was the last for former coach Cass Dixon, who stepped down from her position after seven seasons on March 12. Ashland turned to Kevin Foeman to guide the program. He spent three seasons as the head coach at fellow Division II school Lake Erie where he turned a three-win team before he arrived into a 26-win NCAA Tournament contender in his final season with the Storm.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2018: The Eagles return all three of their All-GLIAC performers as that group leads a high-octane front line capable of producing significant firepower.
"We have a lot of athleticism," Foeman said. "Shelby is one of the best outsides in the region and she has a lot of potential still. Reanne and Michaela are big-time middles. I know they were All-GLIAC, but I think they can be better than they were. And (Sophi) Cudworth is a stud."
Foeman also mentioned returning sophomores Ellie Jensen and Zoie Franklin and junior Paige Leitz as pieces who will add talented depth in the frontcourt.
Last season, the Eagles ranked sixth in the GLIAC in hitting percentage (.199). Woycik was the GLIAC leader in kills per set (3.87) while hitting .220.
"Offensively, it will be kind of the same," Foeman said. "They ran a pretty fast offense. It's pretty cut and dry. We set certain pins in serve receive and try to move things around in transition."
The changes will come defensively where Foeman and his staff will institute a different scheme.
"Defense will be what we pride ourselves on," he said. "We have a pretty good system defensively and I think that will be good for us. It's a blocking system that funnels everything to our defense. Offensively, you'll see a lot of the same things, and defensively we'll bring in our own style and blocking schemes."
While the Eagles excelled at home last season (going over two calendar years without a defeat at Kates Gymnasium), their struggles came on the road. Ashland was 5-12 away from their home court.
"We have to work on consistency between home and away from last year," Foeman said. "I want them to play exactly the same, feel exactly the same whether they're playing on their home court or on the road. The team has a crazy high ceiling. They need to feel and know they can beat anybody, and I think we can. Consistency is what we're aiming for."
The Eagles will be tested right away with a home tournament the first weekend of the season Aug. 24-25, followed by a four-match slate at a tournament at Findlay the following weekend. All eight of those matches will count as in-region contests.
"I'm looking forward to the first two weekends," said Foeman. "We're playing some really good matches. We're playing Bellarmine, bringing Nova up from Florida. I'm looking forward to playing Findlay and Hillsdale, I always love playing them.
"It's a lot of excitement. We get to figure out where we need to go and see if we're ready to compete, ready to rock."