Volleyball plays host to tourney

by Justin Evans | 9/26/97 5:00am

It's been a long offseason for the women's volleyball team. Motivated by last season's disappointing losses in the Ivy League tournament, the Big Green has been working hard since January to take this season's team all the way to the championship.

The team continues its road to the tournament this weekend, hosting Dartmouth Invitational in Leede Arena. Dartmouth will face Boston College on Friday night at 6 p.m., immediately followed by a match with Central Connecticut. The team will play two more games on Saturday against Siena at noon and Providence at 4 p.m.

In just its fourth year as a varsity sport at Dartmouth, the women's volleyball team has gone from just two wins in its first year to 18 wins last year. Head coach Ann Marie Larese has led the transformation from it's early stages, and looks for even bigger things in this year's squad.

"My goal is to still be playing on November 16, which is the final day of the Ivy League Tournament," Larese said.

The Big Green(5-1) has already gotten out to a quick start, winning three of four matches in a preseason trip to Alaska, and posting two more wins over the past three days. Wednesday night's quick three-game victory over the University of Vermont extended the team's winning streak to five matches.

Leading the team on the court this season are co-captains Maria Stutsman y Marquez '98 and Felicity Kolp '99. Defensive specialist Stutsman y Marquez was the 1996 Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and led the team in aces last year. As the starting setter, Kolp's play can ignite the offense. Kolp earned an Academic All-Ivy spot.

"Our co-captains play huge for us on the court," Larese said. "They are our leaders on offense and defense, respectively."

"We're fortunate to have as our captains two players who will be on the court a lot, that's a first for us." Larese said,

The captains know they need to step up their leadership.

"This year I'm trying to talk a lot more," Stutsman y Marquez said. "I need to keep encouraging people and helping them to keep focused."

Larese expects a big year from middle blocker Danra Kazenski '99.

"Danra is the quickest, stongest middle blocker in our conference," Larese said, "She consistently does a great job for us."

Kazenski is second on the team in blocks, and her play on the Alaska trip earned high-marks from Larese, "She had a great trip, blocking well and really putting the ball to the floor."

Sophomore Anne Murray has what Larese has described as the "Midas touch." After coming on strong in the second half of last season, Murray has had a great start to this season. Murray leads the team in kills, aces, and is second in digs.

Murray attributes much of her success to the offseason conditioning program run by athletic department trainer Jane Taylor.

"We did a lot of running and jumping," Murray said, "I think we all feel a lot stronger and faster, and it makes us a better team."

Among Murray's goals for this season are going further in the Ivy tournament and impressing the home crowd so that more fans will come out to matches.

"Her play spreads out our offense," Larese said, "Anne has a tremendous angle of attack, and now she's playing with even more confidence."

Other offensive standouts include outside hitters Alison McKinley '99 and Janna Merryfield '00. McKinley led the team in digs and kills last year, en route to earning second team All-Ivy honors for the second consecutive year. After a solid first year, Merryfield is off to a quick start this season, leading the team in digs while and second in kills.

Defensively, Latia Curry '98 is a force to be reckoned with. Curry, a middle blocker, is leading the team with 18 total blocks.

With their first Ivy League matchup just a week away, Larese scheduled teams for this weekend's tournament who play the same fast-paced style as the Ivy competition.

"They'll mirror the speed of most of our Ivy League opponents," Larese said, "It's designed to prep us, and to really see where we are in terms of a yard stick."

In an effort to keep her team ready for the elite of the Ivy league, Larese scheduled a match next Wednesday against the regionally ranked University of New Hampshire Wildcats.

Before the Big Green go up against their Ivy foes, Stutsman y Marquez thinks the team needs to work on cohesiveness on the court.

"We need to work together and flow more," she said. "If each player is able to give and take a little bit from the players around them, then that's ideal."

Larese believes freshman middle blocker Jessica Wirth '01 will be a big contributor in the coming years.

"She has all the makings of a great middle blocker," Larese said, "Eventually she'll get a lot of time to play."

Larese also figures to be counting on Meredith Brower '01, a former junior olympic player. She believes it as only a matter of getting used to the Big Green systems until she can contribute.

The Dartmouth Invitational tournament begins with the Big Green taking on Boston College at 6:00 tonight in Leede Arena.