by Tom Utescher
Front row player Katie Schock graduated from Chestnut Hill College this spring, but that was the only personnel loss for the Griffins’ volleyball team, and the squad seems poised to improve upon a successful 2014 campaign.
Last fall CHC notched its first victory over conference and Northwest Philly rival Philadelphia University, posting its best record to date in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference with a 9-10 ledger.
“I think especially in the last two years we’ve established ourselves as a really strong defensive team,” stated head coach Kim Kolesnik, who is embarking on her eighth season at the helm of the CHC spikers. “We put up the best dig numbers in our conference and in the region, and nationally we were either 10th or 11th in digs per set. What we need to work on is becoming a faster, smarter offensive team.”
A mainstay on the defensive side is junior libero Regina Trabosh, a former Mount St. Joseph Academy standout who was recruited at the Division I level. She is a major impact player in Division II, leading the CACC last season in total digs and digs per set, finishing 11th in the country in digs per set, and earning All-Region honors.
She is a team co-captain this year along with senior outside hitter Rachel Biro, who in 2014 established single-season CHC records in kills and kills per set and also was second on the team in total blocks. She registered 410 kills, while junior outside Madison McBride piled up 320 kills in 2014.
Kolesnik played two freshmen in the middle hitter spot during most of last season, so Missy Shunk and Sam Gelfan are now battle-tested sophomores. Gelfan has moved to the right side to open up room in the middle for transfer Emily Koehler, who is coming off of an All-American junior college career.
A few of the CHC single-season records forged last season belonged to setter Alyssa Tamsing, a current senior who established new school standards for total assists and assists per set. Kolesnik said that freshman Kennedy Sutton will have an immediate impact and will allow Chestnut Hill to present a two-pronged setting threat.
“She’s big, fast, physical, and she puts up a very good block,” the coach said. “She has the ability to help us speed up our offense, and also vary our offense.”
Kolesnik noted, “Although we only graduated one player from last year, we brought in four new players because we’re going to lose six seniors from this year’s group. You’ve got to take a long-term view, and you definitely don’t want to put yourself in a position where you graduate your entire starting line-up all at once.”
As in many sports, college coaches in volleyball are increasingly doing their recruiting at high-level club tournaments, where they can observe prospects consistently performing against quality opponents.
“Aside from the physical attributes,” Kolesnik said, “players on the strong clubs also have a lot of mental toughness, a mentality that gets you used to winning.”
Asked about CACC competition in 2015, she observed, “I think our conference is starting to level out – in a competitive way. Where you used to have a handful of good teams, you now have eight or nine strong teams who could beat one another on a given day. There are going to be a number of teams that are relatively young this season, but a lot of those young players are very talented.”
CHC was preparing by attending a very challenging tournament in Massachusetts during the Labor Day break, and planning to face a solid field of opponents at a tournament in Delaware this weekend. Kolesnik has Ellis Geer back for his second season as assistant coach with the team.