Aug. 12, 2004

NKU AIMS FOR GLVC TITLE, NCAA BERTH

All-America standout Koralewski to lead youthful Norse in 2004

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - A solid recruiting class is going to strengthen Northern Kentucky University’s volleyball program this fall, as is the return of a healthy Andrea Lanham at setter.

But ask any volleyball coach in the Great Lakes Valley Conference why NKU is a threat to win both the conference and regional titles in 2004, and they will no doubt start with senior outside hitter Kristin Koralewski.

And for good reason.

The 5-foot-8 Koralewski combined her attacking skills and defensive prowess last season to earn GLVC Player of the Year honors. She recorded 580 kills, 487 digs and 26 double-doubles as a junior, and she was named GLVC Player of the Week three times.

Koralewski was also an NCAA Division II first team All-America selection - just the second time in history an NKU volleyball player has attained that honor. She led NKU to a 26-12 record a year ago, and the Norse finished as runner-up at the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region Tournament.

Now in her third season with the Norse after spending her freshman year at Northern Michigan University, Koralewski has the opportunity to become the only volleyball player in NKU history to earn first team All-America honors twice.

“That says a lot about Kristin, when you consider how many fine players have been at NKU over the years,” Norse head coach Carlos Chia said. “We have had great players like Kerry Lewin, Colleen Kaufman, Jenny Jeremiah, Jessica Buroker, Molly Donovan, Jenni Long and Bethany Gastright, just to name a few, and only Buroker was a first team All-American.

“It goes to show what an impressive year Kristin had as a junior, and she has a chance to be better this year. She is a more disciplined player, and she is very comfortable with the role she has on our team.”

Another key is the return of Lanham, who appeared to be a lock for GLVC Freshman of the Year last season before suffering a wrist injury that caused her to miss 22 matches. Lanham still recorded a team-leading 662 assists and had 25 service aces in an abbreviated freshman year.

“Pound for pound, Andrea is the most athletic setter we have ever had at NKU,” Chia said of the Notre Dame Academy graduate. “Andrea has to deal with the responsibility of being the team’s only setter, and we expect much from her this year.”

NKU must replace right-side hitter Cammi Welter, a four-year starter and an honorable mention All-American last season. Welter finished her career fifth in Norse history with 1,535 kills.

Also missing from last year’s lineup are outside hitter Nicole Salisbury, middle blocker Kaliana Kalache and setter Sara Taylor. Chia, though, welcomes back six letterwinners and adds an impressive recruiting class.

Maggie Pugh returns for her senior season after finishing with 229 kills and a .304 hitting percentage a year ago. Pugh also had 92 total blocks, which ranked third on the team. Senior defensive specialist Amber Timmons finished with 320 digs last season and also returns.

“We need Maggie to have a solid year in the middle,” Chia said. “She has the most experience on our team in that position, so it is important Maggie plays well.”

Chia said junior Julie Lewis has impressed him during early-season practice and could start at right-side hitter.

Also back is junior Lynne Fischesser, a versatile performer who can play the back row or move up front as a middle blocker. Fischesser had 329 digs last season.

“Lynne is in great shape, and she is going to be a factor because of how hard she worked during the off-season,” Chia said.

The recruiting class features outside hitter Tristen Dye, middle hitters Liz Holmes and Elizabeth Droessler, and right-side hitter/middle hitter Megan Seegert. Chia also added defensive specialists Maria Tieman and Krista Barnett.

Dye, blue-chip freshman from Millersburg, Ohio, is expected to step in as a starting outside hitter. Chia said Dye is an explosive attacker with great athletic ability.

Chia is also expecting much from Holmes, one of the top prep players in Cincinnati last season. Chia, who has coached Holmes the past three seasons in club volleyball for the Cincinnati Bullets, said Holmes’ knowledge of the NKU system could elevate her into a starter at middle hitter for the Norse.

“Liz has great demeanor on the court, she is always working and she has been very impressive in practice,” Chia said. “Liz is very quick and agile, and she really gets to the ball. She is also a powerful hitter, and she is going to make an impact.”

Droessler and Seegert are a pair of recruits from Wisconsin, and both could make an immediate impact this fall. Droessler can play middle or outside, while the 6-1 Seegert will see time as a right-side hitter.

The combination of experience and youth should make it an interesting season, Chia said.

“I think we showed last season during the NCAA Tournament where our program is in terms of competition,” he said, “and we hope to be in position to do even better this year.”

NKU begins the season Aug. 27-28 at the University of West Florida Tournament in Pensacola, Fla. The Norse will meet the University of Montevallo (Ala.), the University of West Alabama, Mesa (Colo.) State College and West Florida during the two-day event.

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Kristin Koralewski