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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Youth leads Big Green

In just one year, the women's volleyball team has made a 180 degree turn over previous play. Not only did it improved its record from 2-18 last season to 14-9 this season, but it has also set a new record for wins in a season.

So who's the secret weapon? The question is not so easily answered. There is no one weapon on the 1995 team. There are five new weapons, the members of the first recruiting class that Dartmouth has ever seen.

In its second year as a fully-funded varsity team, the volleyball team found the chance for its first recruits ever. And even with such a poor record for the 1994 season, coaches Ann Marie Larese and Kim Diehlmann were able to pick and convince five excellent athletes to join the likes of the Dartmouth team.

These five freshman, Erin Clarke, Emily Hallenbeck, Danra Kazenski, Felicity Kolp and Alison McKinley, have given to Dartmouth exactly what the coaches had hoped-- a fresh start.

What is it about these five starters that gives the team the consistency necessary to pull up to a whole new level? They certainly are not identical volleyball players. In fact, it would be difficult to find a group of people that are more dissimilar.

"It's amazing considering they represent such a wide spectrum," Larese said of their unity. "To put them all together and have them work as a unit.... The chemistry between the five kids -- themselves as a class and what they bring into the team -- is just really good."

While this unity was a key factor in the team's success this season, each of these women has her own individual talents that she must add to the to come up with the winning combination.

At outside hitter, Clarke came to Dartmouth with the advantage of playing against the best volleyball players in Connecticut on the Connecticut Juniors team. She is at some disadvantage, however, in that her high school team, Fitch High School, played a relatively slow game compared to what Dartmouth plays.

"Erin should be the best blocker on our team," Larese said. "She has good hands for the second ball."

Clarke plays right side, which is different from her position in high school, when she switched between outside hitter and middle blocker. Playing right side translates into taking the set sometimes if the setter cannot get to the ball.

"Erin has great athletic abilities and has yet to develop them fully at this level," Captain Carmen Schmitt '97 said.

Emily Hallenbeck jumped onto the team at outside hitter as well. Hallenbeck, with her trademark ribbon in her hair, "is a very consistent player who sneaks in quite a few hard kills and aces," Schmitt said.

Larese also noted Hallenbeck's consistency on offense, especially since teammate Alison McKinley was injured during the Harvard game on Oct. 17.

Over the season, Hallenbeck served up 34 aces to lead the team and is second in kills and digs, with 261 and 286, respectively.

Larese calls middle blocker Kazenski "the most athletic" player on the team. "She's more used to our offense and more comfortable with Felicity. Other teams are going to have to get middle blockers to block her in the future."

The block is one of the most important aspects of a collegiate level volleyball game and Kazenski has fit right into the slot. "She has a great jump; she's lean and mean," Larese said.

"Danra gives and demands positive energy off her locks and off of other people's successes," Schmitt said. "She has a great attitude of intensity and support."

Kazenski headed the team in both solo and assisted blocks. She has tallied 24 solo blocks and 42 assisted blocks for a total of 66.

One of the most demanding and pressure-filled positions on the court is setter. Kolp has stepped into that position with the poise and skill of a veteran player. With 968 assists on the season, Kolp has proven that she can take control of the situation.

"Felicity has had the most demanding job of running the offense. She has taken up a lot of pressure to assume this role and she has done a wonderful job," Schmitt said.

"She makes great decisions," Larese said. "Our problems with our offense are not centered around our setter. That's what you need for a setter, a steady person who's competent and quick."

Not only has Kolp contributed to the team with her skill but she has also added her spirit, keeping her teammates' spirits up. "Her cheer and support is constant throughout the match," Schmitt commented.

Last, but certainly not least, is McKinley. The outside hitter has consistently shown she can compete at the collegiate level.

"Ali creates enthusiasm with her intimidating grunts, hits and her big expressions after the kill," Schmitt said. "She uses her smile to take the pressure off her herself and off of others. She has a great attitude for an athlete-- intense and fun."

McKinley lead the team throughout the season in kills and digs, and stood in third place in service aces. Her stats show impressive numbers -- 343 kills (3.9 kills per game), 379 digs and 32 service aces.

Not only have these five women been able to work together, but they also fit well into the dynamic of the team. One worry was that the upperclassmen might not accept the new members who were taking five of the six starting positions. This left several players who started in the past on the bench.

"I have not sensed any animosities between the upperclass and the freshmen," Schmitt said. "None of us knew what to expect for this season, and the upperclassmen knew these recruits would bring a lot of power to the team. I think we are a very 'teamish' team in that we avoid being selfish and worry about who is or isn't starting."

This "teamishness" is evident in all that the team does, right down to the "team covenant," which the upperclassmen wrote last year to try to assimilate everyone into a tight-knit group.

"[The upperclassmen] all contributed and signed the covenant," Larese said. "To the best of my knowledge, we haven't broken away from it."

Kolp said, "The upperclassmen just accepted us. It's not one against the other. That was really helpful. It hasn't been a team of five players. It's a team of 11 players."

Clarke agreed. "The girls on the team are very nice and really helped us make the adjustment."

Schmitt said, "I admire the freshmen because they have been put in the spotlight since their arrival and the pressure hasn't lessened since. They are in a unique situation of having to assume a dominant role and I think they have done an exceptional job. I feel sorry for teams that will face these girls when they are juniors and seniors."

As for the future, the team can only see positives.

"We're just going to go up from here," Kolp said. "We've got a great foundation."