It could be head coach Cathy Hummel’s deepest team in her five years at Canisius, and not one of the 12 Golden Griffins on the roster is a senior.
But those numbers don’t have Hummel discouraged heading into the 2005 season. Actually, this team has impressed Hummel more than any of her previous four squads.
“The team is coming together and working hard in preparation for the season,” Hummel said. “Our energy and effort in the workouts have been where they need to be.”
Coming off an 11-15 campaign, including a fifth-place finish in the MAAC, the Golden Griffins feature two preseason All-MAAC selections and welcome five new players as well as 2003 All-MAAC first-team member Leigh Launhardt to the roster.
“This could be my most challenging coaching year having a team of 12 solid players,” Hummel said. “It won’t just be sending out the same starting six each time we take the court. I’ll have to look at match-ups going into the matches and see how the players prepare and practice throughout the week.”
With the graduation of outside hitters Christina Wildes and Kim Hoffman, the Griffs must replace their top two attackers from the 2004 season, and two of the top attackers in program history. Those replacements will come in the form of new players joining this year’s roster.
Aislinn Hayes is a junior-transfer from Central Michigan. The Haslett, Mich., native averaged 1.40 kills per game with the Chippewas during her sophomore season. Hummel expects Hayes to fill the void left by the departure of Wildes and Hoffman as well as use the experience she gained during her two seasons in Mount Pleasant, Mich., to guide the freshmen during their first collegiate season.
Morgan Ammons, Nicole Fafard and Brittany Gerde are the three freshmen outside hitters joining the Griffs. Ammons was a member of the championship team at the 2004 USA Girls’ Junior Olympic Championships in the 17-under Club Division. The Findlay, Ohio, native also was named to the all-tournament team. Fafard comes to Canisius from Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, N.Y., where her team won the state title in 2003 and finished second in 2004 at the Class AA level. Gerde spent the past three seasons playing for Oak Hills in Cincinnati and earned first-team all-conference honors during her last two years.
Having three freshmen outside hitters will give ample opportunities to newcomers to the Canisius program. However, the transition from high school volleyball to college volleyball not only requires an increase in the level of play, but staying focused on each point.
“We have to make sure our freshmen don’t allow the mental mistakes transfer to the physical part of the game,” Hummel said. “Our biggest obstacle is going to be keeping the physical and mental parts of the game separate.”
Senior outside hitter Jen Smith, a transfer from Binghamton, won’t play during the 2005 season due to a knee injury and will be redshirted.
Leigh Launhardt returns to the Golden Griffins after suffering a knee injury in the team’s first game last season. The junior earned All-MAAC first-team honors in 2003 and returns to the Griffs’ roster with 589 career kills and 1.04 blocks per game, which ranks third all-time in program history.
Two seasons ago, junior Mary Boller (right) became the school’s first player to win MAAC Rookie of the Year honors when she won the award following the 2003 season. Last year, Boller finished second in the MAAC with a 1.02 blocks per game average and also finished second on the team with a .229 hitting percentage. The Clarence N.Y., native led the Griffs with 97 total blocks.
Junior Emily McNabb registered career highs in kills (79) and attack attempts (204) last season, including a single-match high of 14 kills against Rider Nov. 6. She also led the Griffs with 29 solo blocks. Freshman Katie Parmely joins the Griffs from Babylon, N.Y., where she was honored as an all-county selection in 2004 after being named an all-league player in 2003. Both players will provide an already deep team with even more quality experience.
According to the preseason prognosticators, this area is the Griffs’ strength as setter Lauren Lackovich and libero Jess Stackhouse earned preseason all-MAAC honors.
Lackovich (below), a sophomore from Bloomington, Ill., became the third player in school history to record at least 1,000 assists in a single-season. After finishing fourth in the conference in assists per game, taking her game to another level is the natural progression for Lackovich.
“She expects to be more successful and I hope she mentally stays in it,” Hummel said. “After the freshmen year, mine and her expectations tend to go up for the sophomore season.”
<#IMAGE:3#>Stackhouse earned MAAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors as a freshman when she led the Blue and Gold with 442 digs. Similar to Lackovich, is working to take the next step as a team leader.
“She’s been more vocal on the floor and shown tremendous leadership,” Hummel said. “Defense is a significant part of the game and our team’s defense is better than it has been in the past.”
Junior setter Lauren Brosius was the team’s secondary setter in 2004, playing in 60 games. Freshman Sarah Podlesh joins the team after being named the 2005 Section V Player of the Year in New York state and will play libero as well as outside hitter.
Hummel describes the non-conference schedule as “super hard”. This season’s schedule features matches against Akron, St. John’s, Penn and Robert Morris, with the highlight team on the slate being Pepperdine, a traditional powerhouse located in Malibu, Calif., that entered this season ranked No. 25 in the preseason coaches’ poll.
"Our non-conference schedule will see some of the best competition in the country,” Hummel said, “It will allow us to do two things Ė use our opponents as a measuring stick and hopefully that quality of play will rub off on it.”
The MAAC schedule begins Oct. 15, at Manhattan and features home matches against Fairfield, Iona, Rider and Loyola. With four teams qualifying for the postseason tournament to be held at Niagara Nov. 19-20, Hummel sees any of the 10 teams in the MAAC having the potential to finish in the top four.