Aug. 13, 2002
NKU AIMS FOR 6TH STRAIGHT GLVC TITLE
Norse to rely on solid veterans, strong recruiting class
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Despite losing four key players from last years 28-5 team, Northern Kentucky University could be even better this season on the volleyball court.
Even though the Norse must replace Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year Bethany Gastright - not to mention second team All-GLVC performer Luisa Gomez and four-year letterwinners Julie Hathorn and Denise Barhorst - theres a good chance NKU will win its sixth consecutive GLVC championship.
In fact, NKU is the overwhelming favorite in the GLVC preseason coaches poll.
Given the personnel losses to graduation, how is this possible?
A strong tradition, solid veteran players and an outstanding group of newcomers are the cause for the preseason optimism. NKU head coach Carlos Chia brought in seven newcomers - including a pair of highly-regarded recruits from Brazil and two proven transfers - as the Norse aim for their sixth consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament appearance.
A year ago, NKU posted a 14-0 record in the GLVC, won its fifth straight GLVC Tournament and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional before losing to Grand Valley State University. Chia - who earned GLVC Coach of the Year honors in his NKU debut last season - said he believes his 2002 Norse could be even better than last years team, which finished with a No. 17 national ranking in the NCAA Division II poll.
I feel very confident and optimistic that we will be competing for a trip to the Elite Eight, Chia said. Our region is one of the best in the nation with teams like Grand Valley State, Findlay, Northwood and Northern Michigan. The GLVC will remain strong within the region with teams like Southern Indiana, Lewis, Southern Illinois at Edwardsville and Indianapolis all competing for berths in the NCAA Tournament.
On the other hand, I feel that we have a good combination of veteran players and newcomers who can get us to the Elite Eight.
The top returning player for NKU is junior outside hitter Cammi Welter, who recorded 374 kills last season. Welter also had a team-leading 388 digs and 40 service aces.
Junior setter Sara Taylor, who had 1,122 assists in 2001, also was named second team All-GLVC last season. Sophomore defensive specialist Amber Timmons earned second team All-GLVC honors a year ago after finishing with 224 digs and 31 service aces.
Sophomore middle hitter Maggie Pugh had a .407 hitting percentage last season, and sophomore setter Kate OToole provides experience and depth for the Norse. Junior Stacia Stroer also returns after lettering last year.
We have some outstanding players returning, and their experience will be a key, Chia said. They know what it takes to win in our conference and in the region.
NKUs recruiting class includes 6-foot-2 middle hitter Kaliana Kalache, a native of Campo Largo, Brazil, who is expected to give the Norse a powerful hitter and blocker at the net. Kalache was named the most valuable player at the South American Tournament last year.
Chia also brought in freshman setter Marcela Cunha from Curitiba, Brazil. Cunha was named the Curitiba International Tournament's most outstanding setter last season.
Both players from Brazil bring in the experience of having participated at the international level of competition, and that is going to be a plus for our program, Chia said.
A pair of transfers - Kristin Koralewski and Nicole Salisbury - should also make an impact. Koralewski, a 5-8 outside hitter from Northern Michigan, recorded a team-leading 354 kills in 2000 and earned Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year honors. She also led Northern Michigan in service aces (49) and digs (351) as a freshman.
Last season, Koralewski played in just six matches due to injuries and was granted a medical redshirt. She will have three years of eligibility remaining with NKU.
Kristin brings a great deal of experience to our program, and she is an outstanding volleyball player, Chia said. Weve played against her and know how good she is, and it will be nice to have her on our side this season.
She was Northern Michigan's go-to player as a freshman, and she will fit in very well here with the type of offense we run.
Salisbury earned second team All-GLIAC honors while playing at Wayne State University a year ago. The junior outside hitter led Wayne State with 267 kills last season.
Redshirt freshman Mara Castillo and incoming freshmen Julie Lewis, Jessica Kassens and Lynne Fischesser could also be keys this season. Castillo and Kassens are both outside hitters, while Lewis can play outside or right-side hitter. Fischesser will play in the middle for NKU.
NKU will open the season on Sept. 5 at the University of Tampa.