Aug. 9, 2007
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The University of San Diego's women's volleyball program has established itself as one of the premier programs in the country over the past decade. Under the direction of ninth year head coach Jennifer Petrie, the 2007 squad is ready to continue the tradition of excellence, defend their West Coast Conference title and push past the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament.
USD will look to have a more dynamic offense after losing All-American and the 2006 West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Kristen Carlson, and All-WCC first-teamer Christie Dawson to graduation. While Carlson and Dawson provided a bulk of the Torero offense last season, Petrie anticipates her squad this year will keep opponent defenses guessing.
"Last year we had an exceptional outside hitter in Kristen Carlson," stated Petrie. "We are going to be a very different team this year, which is exciting because we are going to have a lot of different weapons in the middle, right and left sides. This will make it very difficult for opposing defenses."
Petrie's confidence in her 2007 team is shown in her expectations on continuing to improve each season. The Toreros are not only looking to make their eighth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and 12th appearance in the past 13 years, but they want to continue to be a national seed and host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament as well was advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
"We would like to break past the Sweet 16 and reach the Elite 8," stated Petrie. "I know we have some tough goals to attain, but I am confident that with this group of players and a great coaching staff, these goals are very attainable."
Headlining the 2007 squad will be the return of All-WCC first-team honoree Laurel Abrahamson. Entering her final season in a Torero uniform, Abrahamson enjoyed a break-out type season in 2006 as she posted career-best numbers with 363 kills (3.13 kpg), a team-leading .326 attack percentage and team best 89 blocks. With her senior leadership and experience, Abrahamson will play a key role in both the Torero's offense and defense.
"I think Laurel is going to be a dominant middle not only in our conference, but on the national scene," commented Petrie. "She has tons of experience and we are excited that she will be able to take on a lot of the offense for us."
Sophomore Torey Ellick is a strong contender for the other middle hitter spot. The sophomore from Capistrano Beach, CA, saw limited action in 2006, appearing in 12 games and recording eight kills and two blocks. With a year of experience under her belt, and an impressive spring season, the coaching staff is excited to see Ellick continue to develop and compete for a starting position.
Lauren McClure also makes her return to the Toreros in her final season as a senior. She will provide both leadership and competition for the middle hitter position. McClure played in 15 games, recorded seven kills and five blocks this past season.
Rounding out the middles, is Volleyball Magazine top-50 freshman recruit, Ashton Basch. Basch joins the Toreros after having a standout career at El Toro High School. While at El Toro, she helped the Chargers win the Orange County Championship, a CIF Southern Section final appearance and a trip to the CIF State tournament. The coaching staff is excited to add Basch to their roster and expect good things from her.
On the right side, the Toreros will turn to some senior experience in Jessica Andersen to help get the job done. Andersen posted 141 kills and 42 blocks in 2006, her first full season as a starter. The coaching staff is looking forward to her competitive attitude and desire to win to help propel the Torero team to another successful season.
Joining the Toreros on the right side is another Volleyball Magazine top-50 freshman recruit, Ali Troost. Troost is expected to come in and raise the level of competition on the team.
"I believe she is the best right side coming out of her class," said Petrie. "She is a true right side and left handed. With both Ali and Jessica Andersen on the right side, we can channel a lot of the offense through them."
The outside hitters will also be a valuable asset to the 2007 Toreros. Senior Erin Wiskar, a three-year starter for the Toreros, will maker her return for her final season after a very successful junior campaign in which she posted 147 kills, 199 digs and 50 blocks.
"Over the past three seasons Erin has significantly contributed to the success of our team," observed Petrie. "She passes a lot of the court, she has great ball control, and she is a superb blocker. In her senior year, we are going to count on her a lot for leadership."
Junior Jaimarie Sutherland is expected to compete for a starting spot on the outside. In 2006, Sutherland appeared in 29 matches and recorded 47 kills, 29 digs and two blocks in her first season in a Torero uniform. In the spring, she teamed up with Andrea Csaszi and represented USD in the POWERade Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championships. Sutherland's greatest asset is her true competitiveness, which the coaching staff feels will help this team get to the next level.
Sophomore Amy DeGroot will also compete for a starting role on the outside for the Toreros after seeing playing time in 2006 in the middle, right and outside positions. DeGroot came on strong towards the end of the 2006 season and played a big role in USD advancing into the Sweet 16. In the postseason, DeGroot averaged 2.09 kills per game and led the team in attacking percentage at .328. Overall, she posted 99 kills, a .242 attack percentage and had 34 blocks in the 2006 season. Taking great strides this spring converting from a middle to the outside, Petrie feels DeGroot is ready to make a big impact.
"Amy is an unbelievable athlete. She has the ability to grow into our next go-to player and I have a feeling this will be a breakout year for her," stated Petrie.
Another player that may provide the same versatility DeGroot did in her freshman campaign is Colleen Carlson, the younger sister of the 2006 WCC Player of the Year Kristen Carlson. The younger Carlson will compete for playing time in the middle and outside positions and Petrie is excited about her addition to the roster.
"We are thrilled to have Colleen join us. She is a tremendous physical athlete, a great jumper, and she will learn very quickly at a high level," said Petrie. "She has a very fast and powerful arm swing, great ball control and moves very smoothly on the court."
Feeding the offense this season, and returning after leading the team to the Sweet 16 in her first year as a starter, is junior setter Jessica Nyrop. Nyrop, an All-WCC honorable mention honoree in 2006, set a new program record for single-season assists with 1,546 while directing the Toreros offense to a .255 team attacking percentage.
"Jessica had a superb season last year running our offense," stated Petrie. "Now that she has some experience, I think she will excel from last year and have the opportunity to set a very dynamic offense this year."
Backing up Nyrop is a highly touted freshman recruit in Kelsi Myers. From Winter Park, Colo., Myers joins the Toreros after a standout high school career at Middle Park High School. She was named the Metro Player of the Year in 2006, selected to play in the CCGS All-State Games and earned a Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post All-State Honorable mention.
Another key returner for the Toreros is All-WCC freshman team honoree Andrea Csaszi. A sophomore libero, Csaszi posted 285 digs in her freshman season, ranking her second on the team.
Backing up Csaszi will be sophomore Kayleen Webster. Webster makes her return after a successful freshman campaign that saw her record 216 digs in 55 games, for a team-best average of 3.93 digs per game. Breanne Ogden rounds out the returning roster from the 2006 Sweet 16 team. Petrie and her coaching staff are looking for the junior DS to continue to baffle opposing passers with her tough serve.
With all of this firepower on the roster, Petrie has set a schedule that will challenge her players to compete at the highest level. Two in-season home tournaments, nine matches against NCAA Tournament qualifiers and two matches against half of the final four participants from the NCAA Tournament a year ago highlight the 2007 schedule.
The Toreros will be challenged with one of the toughest schedules in all of college volleyball. Seven of USD's 12 non-conference opponents participated in postseason play a year ago, including semi finalists UCLA, and national runner-up Stanford. According to Petrie, the combination of the non-conference schedule and a rigorous WCC slate will challenge this year's squad.
"Our schedule is very tough, and that is the way we like it," stated Petrie. "We feel that teams always play better when they are challenged, and when you play the best teams at the beginning of then year, you know where you stand heading into conference as well as the NCAA Tournament."