Entering her fourth year as head coach for the Eagles, Cass Dixon and the 2014 Ashland University volleyball team begin their season this weekend at the Concordia Saint Paul Tournament on September 5th.
The Eagles will play Concordia-St. Paul, Missouri S&T, Southwest Minnesota St. and Wheeling Jesuit during their opening trip.
Last season AU made its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. They claimed the GLIAC South Division title for second year in a row. And after setting the single-season school record for conference wins, the Eagles look forward to continuing their success in 2014.
LAST LOOK AT LAST SEASON
Ashland finished the season 15-3 (.833) in the GLIAC, topping the standing in the southern division. They ended the season with an impressive 26-8 (.765) record.
During their NCAA Playoff berth the Eagles claimed a quarterfinal victory against Southern Indiana before falling in the semifinals in a five-set battle with Grand Valley State University.
Head Coach Cass Dixon says, "Last season was a great year, and an awesome learning experience for some of our younger players."
As a team, the Eagles averaged 13.43 kills per set, hitting .233 on the season. AU tallied 287 blocks in 2013, and cumulatively held their opponents to a .149 hitting percentage.
The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) women's volleyball coaches selected Ashland to finish first place in the GLIAC South in their 2014 Preseason Coaches' Poll published August 14.
The Eagles received 48 total points and tallied six first place nods.
"It's definitely a confidence boost to start the season. There are a lot of good teams in the South, so we're excited" noted Dixon.
DIXON IN CHARGE
With Dixon running the show the Eagles have gone 3-0 in season openers and 8-4 in opening weekends. In both 2012 and 2013 the Eagles were 3-1 after the first weekend of competition.
Since taking over the program in 2011 Dixon and Eagles have tallied a 65-30 record.
LOOKING AT THE AVCA POLLS
After the first AVCA poll released August 18 Ashland was listed in the "Other Receiving Votes" category. The Eagles ended 2013 in the same group as well.
WHO FLEW THE COOP?
AU graduated two starters and three other contributing letterwinners from 2013. Missing from the lineup this year includes Marci Zegarac. The defensive specialist was third in the conference in digs (598) last season.
Also missing from action is outside hitter Baley Bernthisel. She competed in 26 of 34 matches in 2013 and recorded 140 kills last year.
The Eagles return four starters and four key reserves from the 2013 campaign.
GLIAC Freshman of the Year Alli Cudworth begins her second season as an Eagle. Cudworth averaged 3.70 kills per set in 2013 and led the team in points scored. As a freshman she was named to the ALL-GLIAC 1st Team, the Midwest All-Region Team, and the Daktronics All-Midwest Region Second Team.
Also returning for her second year is Casey Clark, a 5-10 outside hitter from Indianapolis, Ind. Clark was a 2013 All-GLIAC selection who averaged 2.73 kills and 2.72 digs per set during her rookie season.
Middle blocker Samantha Zuber enters 2014 a year wiser after her successful debut season. Zuber participated in all 34 matches while leading the team in blocks (115) and blocks per set (.96) a year ago.
Maureen Johnson begins her final year wearing the purple and gold. Johnson averaged .95 blocks per set during 2013.
Ashland welcomes eight newcomers who will compete for valued playing time in 2014.
OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN!
This year the Eagles are led by, Samantha Zuber, Casey Clark, and Audrey Metzger.
"These girls are doing a great job leading by example and experience" mentioned Dixon.
WHAT'S UP NEXT?
After the opening weekend the Eagles head into conference play against Findlay and Hillsdale September 12 and 13.
On Friday September 19 AU hosts Michigan Tech for its home opener at 7 pm.