Volleyball: Freshmen fill new squad

Volleyball: Freshmen fill new squad

By Jewel Della Valle

The theme for this season’s volleyball team will certainly be youth. With just seven returning players from last year’s roster and eight incoming freshmen, the Huskies will have a lot to prove, but head coach Ken Nichols said it will be to their benefit.

“We’re going to be a little young so that carries with it all the obvious connotations,” said Nichols, who is entering his eighth year as head coach. “But all that means is people are going to be very fired up and excited just to get out there and prove themselves, so that’s a huge advantage.”

The Huskies have lost three of their top hitters from last year’s 15-12 (12-6 Colonial Athletic Association) team. Former captains Ashley Reeves and Whitney Turner graduated and sophomore Brittany Eukovich transferred to another school for personal reasons. Setter Ivana Pavlisin also graduated and left ranking seventh all-time in assists (1,458) after just three seasons with the Huskies.

Northeastern has just one returning senior in outside hitter Kira Batura, who set the school record for digs last season (1,450) and was named captain for the 2007-08 season. Three juniors and three sophomores are also returning.

Though they are a young team, Nichols said his players can still hit the ball hard.

“We just have a boatload of bangers,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who can really put the ball away. We’re going to be a little small in the middle but that’s always been the case for us and so we’ll be quick and [it will be] very exciting to watch because we’ll have a tough defense as well.”

One of Nichols’ most notable recruits is setter/outside hitter Britney Brown from Minturn, Colo. She led her high school team to a No. 62 national ranking, a state championship and a 30-1 record her senior year. She was one of seven players to be named to the All-Colorado team. She was also honored as one of 36 players in the country to be named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s First Annual High School Senior All-America Team.

“Britney Brown is just a phenomenal athlete,” Nichols said. “She’s very sizeable for a setter at 5’11, talented, fast, very good hands, good location setter. It just so happens she’s also an awe-inspiring attacker. She has a tremendous amount of skills. She was a no-brainer. She brings a lot to the table.”

Other recruits include Caitlin Tittl and Jillian Robinson, middle hitters from Bakersfield, Calif., and Oak Creek, Wis., respectively. Tittl led the league in kills (419, 9.5 per match), blocks (144, 3.1 per match) and aces (83, 1.9 per match) and had a .458 attacking percentage.

“She’s got a great vertical leap, [she sees] the court extremely well,” Nichols said.

Robinson led her team to a Division II Wisconsin state championship and a Classic 8 conference championship last season. She hit .487 for Catholic Memorial High School, averaged 2.87 kills per game and is a natural blocker and smart attacker, Nichols said.

Outside hitter Jaime Grauvogel comes to Northeastern from Harrison, Ohio. Grauvogel was a 2006 All-State honorable mention and Fort Ancient Valley Conference Player of the Year. She also holds the William Henry Harrison High School record for digs in a match (24) and was named to the All-Conference and All-League first team and All-District third team.

The Huskies also welcome an overseas recruit this season with Annalena Broscheit from Germany, and three more players from around the United States: Allison Knoff from Wilton, Conn., Helen Servillon from San Francisco and Christine Kubik from Littleton, Colo.

“Broscheit competes at a very high level,” Nichols said. “[She’s] capable of playing just about any position for us, left, middle, right, she sets as well and she’s pretty good on defense.

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