NEW CONCORD — With a mix of youth and veteran players, 28-year Muskingum volleyball coach Dr. Elizabeth Zicha is excited about her job to get the Lady Muskies to the next level.
Following a somewhat disappointing 15-17 overall record and a 3-6 mark in the Ohio Athletic Conference, the Lady Muskies still managed to keep their string of always making the conference tournament intact, but that was about it.
In the preseason OAC poll, the Lady Muskies were tabbed to finish sixth.
Zicha returns seven letterwinners from that squad including a pair of senior, three-year monogram winners and returning starters. She also has a two-year letterwinner and four that have one letter.
“We are young,” she cautioned, “but with a lot of experience. Some of our incoming freshmen will have to contribute piece-by-piece and they have to keep going until they reach that junior season. I am happy we were picked in the middle of the conference, but I would like to sneak up near the top.”
The two senior three-year letterwinners who were starters a year ago are outside hitter Hannah Rose and libero Kimberly Seitter. Rose garnered all-OAC honorable mention honors last fall. The two-year monogram winner is junior outside hitter Alexa Abrams (Buckeye Trail), while senior Erin Higham has lettered just once.
The other returning letterwinners include junior Meghan Frey, sophomore middle/outside hitter Brooke Scott and sophomore defensive specialist Heather Smith. Unfortunately, Frey is already lost for the year due to an injury.
“Rose, Seitter and Abrams will be the big keys for us,” Zicha admitted. “Our strength is our quickness and athleticism, while the biggest concern is keeping everyone healthy and I don’t have as much height as I would like.”
The remainder of the 19-player roster are freshmen hopefuls including two from local schools and another two from East Central Ohio League schools.
Local freshmen candidates include Mallory Taylor (Cambridge) and Morgan Diehl (Shenandoah) while Kim Simmerman (Claymont) and Kristen Hill (Marietta) are in the mix.
The remainder of the freshmen include Emily Francis, Jessica Grubb, Kaleigh Hendrix, Katie Hunt, Cindy Mullins, Alex Preston, Hayley Slaton and Cara Uetrecht.
Taking over the job of setter will be either Higham or the freshmen Hendrix, Francis or Simmerman. Besides Abrams, Rose and Scott, freshmen that could see time as hitters are Slaton, Hunt, Taylor and Hill. Uetrecht and Grubb will back up at the defensive specialist position.
“Those four freshmen hitters can play all the way around,” Zicha pointed out. “Uetrecht and Grubb will probably play some for us and Scott and Smith are each going to be pretty good.
“I am optimistic,” the veteran coach added. “I am getting a lot of understanding at this point in practice. It will take some time, but hopefully we will be better in the middle and the end of the season than we are at the beginning.”
She points to Mount Union and Otterbein as a pair of strong teams in the conference. The Lady Muskies will travel to Rose Hulman at Terra Haute, Indiana but most of the schedule remains the same as in past years.
Muskingum opens the season Aug. 30-31 at the St. Vincent Tournament facing Allegheny, Franciscan, St. Vincent and the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.