One year removed from its inaugural season in the Atlantic 10, the VCU volleyball team is poised to make a run at the conference championship in 2013.
With a new coach, several returning players and impressive incoming recruits, the Rams look to improve upon a 25-6 record that helped them finish in fourth place in the A-10 last year.
New head coach Jody Rogers will be responsible for building upon one of the program’s most successful seasons, which ended in the A-10 semifinals against the Xavier Musketeers.
Rogers is replacing former head coach James Finley, who went 151-116 in eight seasons with the Rams and left to coach the volleyball team at Seattle University.
Rogers joins VCU after racking up 406 wins over the course of 16 seasons at the University of Indianapolis. There she led the Greyhounds to seven Division II NCAA appearances and a final four appearance in her final campaign.
Luckily, Rogers won’t be alone. Assistant coach Kyleigh Gerlach is set to join Rogers in Richmond after spending the past several seasons as an assistant on her staff in Indianapolis. The American Volleyball Coaches Association recognized Gerlach this summer as one of thirty most promising up-and-coming coaches in the sport.
Rogers has already proven herself on the recruiting trail, signing four new Rams, including two ACC transfers, who will bring leadership and offensive firepower to the lineup.
Outside hitter Kalah Jones is transferring from Clemson with three eligible seasons remaining and N.C. State transfer Kaitlyn LaMantia will also join the Rams in 2013. The latter is a 6-foot setter, who has competed at the highest level, holding high school records for service aces and assists in a single season.
Incoming freshman Nora Reed arrives at VCU with immense talent and an impressive resume. She was named all-metro and all-lake conference by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune while in high school. The 6-foot middle blocker chose VCU over South Dakota and hometown favorite Minnesota.
The Rams also look to upgrade their defense with freshman Becky Cazares joining the squad. Hailing from Kansas, the 5-foot-7 libero led Bishop Miege high school to three 5A state championships.
In addition, the Rams return several promising players, including A-10 rookie of the year Martina Samadan. Last year Samadan set school records for blocks per set, hitting percentage and total blocks (172) in a single season.
A notable loss to the Rams’ lineup is Kristen Boyd, who graduated with the second most kills in school history after racking up more than 1,200 kills in her four seasons as a Ram.
The new talent will come in handy; the Rams’ schedule is daunting, to say the least.
This year, they battle eight NCAA tournament teams from a year ago and will play three top-25 ranked squads. A matchup against last year’s 17th-ranked Kentucky in the Kentucky Tournament on Sept. 7 starts a tough stretch that will also feature a contest against Wichita State (#24) on Sept. 14.
The Rams will travel to Dayton (#22) on Sept. 27 to cap a stretch of three top-25 opponents in three weeks.
VCU’s season begins August 30 against Florida Gulf Coast in Indianapolis at the IUPUI tournament.