Women's Volleyball Picked Eighth in MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll

HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac University women's volleyball team was picked eighth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, as announced by the league office on Thursday, August 7, 2014. The Bobcats will return 10 of 13 letterwinners from a year ago in which Quinnipiac was one of the youngest teams in the nation.

Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Marist  89
2. Fairfield  87
3. Iona 74
4. Siena 70
5. Manhattan 68
6. Canisius 57
7. Rider 39
8. Quinnipiac 31
9. Niagara 25
10. Saint Peter's 10

Marist, who finished the 2013 season with a MAAC-best 21-9 overall record and 14-4 mark in conference play, earned the top spot in the poll with 89 points. Fairfield, the two-time defending MAAC Champion, was picked second with 87 points, while Iona (74) and Siena (70) claimed third and fourth, respectively. Manhattan (68), Canisius (57) and Rider (39) round out the first seven teams before the Bobcats' selection with 31 points. Niagara (25) and St. Peter's (10) rounded out the census poll.

The MAAC also released its Preseason All-Conference Team, headlined by three Marist players earning the honors. Iona also tabbed two to the list while Fairfield and Siena had one player each earn Preseason All-Conference honors. The reigning MAAC Player of the Year, Marist's Mackenzie Stephens, was named the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year after a 2013 season in which she tallied 329 kills with a .329 attack percentage.

In the Bobcats' debut season in the MAAC, Quinnipiac posted a 3-15 record in conference play which was their best intra-conference record since the 2010 season. Head coach Kris Czaplinski, entering his third season manning the helm at Quinnipiac, has made considerable strides with the women's volleyball program. Despite playing with the youngest team in the MAAC and one of the youngest in the country, his team challenged tradition MAAC powers Manhattan and Siena on the road while they also picked up back-to-back home victories over Rider and St. Peter's throughout the 2013 conference slate.

Preseason All-MAAC Team Position School 
Mackenzie Stephens Middle Hitter Marist
Jacqueline Skeen Middle Hitter Siena
Marilyn Peizer Outside Hitter Fairfield
Catrina Warren Outside Hitter Iona
Courtney Shaw Outside Hitter Marist
Natalie Ziskin Setter Iona
Brooke Zywick Libero Marist
     
Preseason Player of the Year School
Mackenzie Stephens   Marist

Another prolonged draught for Quinnipiac's program came to an end last season as sophomore middle hitter Allison Leigh (Palmer, Alaska) was named to the 2013 MAAC All-Rookie Team. Leigh's incredible freshman campaign and All-Rookie honors made her the first Bobcat to earn an All-Conference distinction since the 2004 season. An all-around force on both the offensive and defensive end, Leigh returns for her second season after leading the Bobcats in all major offensive and defensive statistical categories. She led all MAAC players in blocks with 136 (41 solo, 95 assists) in 2013 while she also led the Bobcats with 216 kills, becoming the first Bobcat to go over 200 kills in a season since 2010. Her crowning match came on Oct. 5 where Leigh posted a single-game Quinnipiac Div. I record 13 blocks in a 3-1 victory over Rider.

The Bobcats also return their do-everything senior Brittanie Robinson (Fresno, Calif.) who played all over the court in 2013. Robinson played in all 31 matches and finished with 100 kills, 232 assists, 14 aces, 201 digs and 31 total blocks. Coach Czaplinski valued Robinson's adept versatility as the natural outside hitter moved into the setter position for the final seven matches due to injuries. She posted a career game with 12 kills and 17 digs in a 3-1 victory over Morgan State and later tallied 54 assists on Nov. 10 against Manhattan, the most for any Bobcat in a match since the 2010 season.

Spearheading the Bobcats' resurgence on the offensive end for a majority of the season was their sophomore setter Emma Ogden (Crown Point, Ind.). A one-time MAAC Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week winner, Ogden ranked on the upper echelon of the setters within the conference as she tallied 636 assists (7.7 per set average), 152 digs and 34 total blocks in 24 matches last season. The team leader with four double doubles figures to bounce back from injury in a big way in the 2014 season.

Quinnipiac will also return five of their weapons along the outside headlined by sophomores Jamie Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.) and Katie Urycki (Chesterton, Ind.) as well as junior Chandler Thornton (Arlington, Texas). The sophomore tandem finished the season with 171 and 164 kills, respectively, which was good enough for second and third on the team. Paolucci was the Bobcats' most-consistent threat from the outside while Urycki flashed signs of brilliance as she led the team with seven double-digit kill matches including a monster double double with 19 kills and 13 digs against Manhattan on Nov. 10. A year after finishing second of the team in kills, Thornton provided another steady presence with 152 kills and three double doubles in 2013. Also returning to Quinnipiac's power hitting contingent will be senior Tanner Celestin (Norco, Calif.), junior Tierra Allen (Sumter, S.C.) and sophomore Sam Alechko (Harrington Park, N.J.).

Sophomore Cody Michaels (Versailles, Ky.) will look to fill the shoes of Logan Riker, the Bobcats' most-distinguished libero in program history. Michaels was used sparingly in her debut season but proved herself with 156 digs while seeing time in all 31 matches. Coach Czaplinski turned Michaels loose towards the end of the season and she responded with back-to-back-to-back 10-dig outings from Nov. 3-10.

Also included amongst the group of 10 returners includes five freshmen signees that'll give Coach Czaplinski a 15-player squad, the largest in the 21-year history of the program at Quinnipiac. His 2014 squad will also feature 11 underclassmen, the most of any MAAC program heading into the 2014 season. Among the five-player Class of 2018 includes setter Sierra Dawson (Larkspur, Calif.), middle hitters Elizabeth Kloos (Munster, Ind.) and Cheyenne Orsi (Bristol, Conn.), outside hitter/right side Jamie Termotto (Smithtown, N.Y.) and libero Nicole Milillo (Lynbrook, N.Y.).

The 2014 season will open at the Hofstra Invitational from Aug. 29-30 where the Bobcats will take on Lafayette, the host Pride and St. Francis Brooklyn at the Mack Physical Education Center in Hampstead, N.Y.

Contact: Maxx McNall; maxx.mcnall@quinnipiac.edu