Volleyball: Experience, chemistry to combine for winning season

Volleyball: Experience, chemistry to combine for winning season

By Jewel Della Valle

Injuries may have ruined the Northeastern Volleyball team’s debut in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) last season, but this year should be a different story.

The Huskies finished the 2005 season with an overall record of 11-16 and an 8-10 mark in the CAA. Seven players on the roster were lost to various injuries last year and it was the first time in head coach Ken Nichols’ career his team finished under .500.

With five new recruits joining the team and concerns about the health of just three players from last season, Nichols predicts the team will contend for a conference championship.

“There are two different scales: success in conference and in national ranking,” Nichols said. “Clearly I expect us to contend for a conference championship. Our national ranking, based on a healthy roster, I think we could finish somewhere near our two best seasons ever.”

Northeastern basketball star Maralene Zwarich is among the new recruits. Zwarich, a senior, played four years of Husky hoops and is Northeastern’s fourth all-time leading scorer. But she has a strong volleyball background, having played four years of volleyball at Shawnee Mission North High School in Merriam, Kan.

“The catch phrase I keep using is, ‘she’s no publicity stunt,'” Nichols said. “[Zwarich’s] athleticism is a no-brainer; she’s painfully athletic. An hour into our practice and she was doing some things that sometimes it takes athletes seven or eight years to be able to do.”

Zwarich was named a Johnson County All-Star her senior year of high school and first team All-Sunflower League in both her junior and senior years. She has one season of volleyball eligibility for Northeastern.

Zwarich intended to start playing volleyball again in off-season tournaments spring of her junior year but hurt her knee in the last basketball game of the season. This year, she decided to take a break between basketball and volleyball and start in the fall.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing how a different team works and I’m so excited to play volleyball again because I miss it so much,” Zwarich said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to help in any way they need me.”

Nichols said Zwarich will probably play in the middle or as an outside hitter.

Freshmen Jessica Tkachuk, who signed a National Letter of Intent in November, Marisa Fair, Ashley Magsanide and Leah Neubeck make up the other four recruits.

Tkachuk, a jump setter from Roseville, Calif., was named Pioneer League MVP and earned her second straight First Team All-League selection in 2005 as she led her team to its first league championship in 24 years with 118 kills and a .546 attack percentage.

“[Tkachuk] is definitely a court general; she mandates, she dictates, she does so with poise beyond her age,” Nichols said.

Fair, an outside hitter from Calabasas, Calif., was named both league and team MVP in 2004 and 2005 for Viewpoint High School and also played for the bronze medal USA team at the 2005 Maccabiah Games.

“She has very substantial club experience, was a star player in high school and is very accustomed to the responsibility of being able to succeed under pressure,” Nichols said.

Magsanide, a setter from Huntington Beach, Calif., finished third in total assists in all of Southern California in 2005. She helped her high school team to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) semifinals in 2005 and the CIF state finals in 2004.

“Magsanide has the ability to run the offense with maturity,” Nichols said.

Neubeck, a libero/defensive specialist from Golden Valley, Minn., served as Hopkins High School captain for two years and led her team to a 26-5 record, an 8-0 conference record and the Class 4A state semifinals in 2005.

Neubeck was also a two-time All-State libero and named a PrepVolleyball.com first team Defensive Dandy her junior and senior years for her club volleyball team M1.

“She’s going to have an immediate impact on the court

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