setting the stage
The Merrimack College women's volleyball team entered the 2016 season returning its top setter and outside hitter in senior captains Tara Stuhr and Jennifer Cain as the program got back to campus in August to begin the preseason. The squad featured five seniors and seven upperclassmen as well as a group of six freshmen that would prove valuable throughout the year.
The Navy and Gold hosted an early season tournament for the first time under sixth-year head coach T.J. Hajjar, headling a 29-match schedule for the Warriors. Merrimack travelled to Clarion University and the USC Aiken for tournaments as well as 14 Northeast-10 Conference matches.
the merrimack invitational
In September, the Warriors hosted four programs, American International, Bentley, East Stroudsburg and nationally ranked Nebraska Kearney, in a five-team tournament over the span of two days at Hammel Court. The Lopers of Nebraska-Kearney entered the weekend as the No. 5 program nationwide and finished the season with a 35-1 record.
The weekend marked the first time in Merrimack women's volleyball history that the Navy and Gold hosted a tournament of that size. The weekend featured 11 matches over a span of two days, with Merrimack battling each team once and the Lopers twice
Tara Stuhr entered the season with over 3,000 career assists, which already was the third-most for any player at Merrimack. She owned three of the 10 highest single-season assist totals as well, and was primed for a historic senior season.
For the fifth time in program history, and second time in her career, Stuhr registered over 1,000 assists, finishing the year with 1,015 overall. On November 5 against Saint Rose, she etched her name into the Warriors record book as just the second player in school history to dish out 4,000 career assists.
Senior classmates Jennifer Cain and Juliette McCall also registered career seasons. Cain posted 315 digs and average of 3.28 per set, the most of her career by nearly 100 total digs. McCall's 222 kills marked a new career high as well, capped off by a 14-dig performance on Senior Day. Speaking of...
Merrimack celebrated its five-player senior class during the final home match of the regular season against Assumption on November 12. Graduating student-athletes Samantha Albano and Madison Creighton kicked the ceremony off, and made their first starts of the season in the match that followed
McCall was honored next, being recognized for her attacking prowess over her four-year career. She finished with nearly 600 career kills, over 400 of which came during the last two seasons.
Captains Jen Cain and Tara Stuhr culminated the ceremony after four-year careers as starting players. One of the most well-rounded players to come through the program, Cain ended her career with over 854 kills and 954 digs. She recorded at least 150 of each in all four years. Stuhr will go down as arguably the best setter to play at Merrimack, and added 864 career digs and 126 blocks to go along with her assist figures. The blocks are tied for the 13th-most in Navy and Gold lore.
Despite losing a core group of Warriors, the Navy and Gold have a deep cast of returning players entering next season. Junior Christina Nye played in her first season as Merrimack's starting libero and excelled, finishing the season with a career-high 421 digs while averaging nearly 4.00 per set. She ended the season with double-digit digs in 14 of her final 15 matches.
Mary Kate McCarroll joins Nye as returning seniors after posting career highs in kills (203), digs (69) and blocks (45) as a junior including nine matches with at least 10 kills.
A pair of freshmen shone through among the group of six that will be back as sophomores next year. Julia Stewart played in a variety of roles that included a defensive prowess, finishing with an average of 2.24 digs per set and 1.10 points per frame. Fellow rookie Catherine Flaherty emerged as one of the best rookies in the Northeast-10, leading the Warriors in blocking while adding 2.01 kills per set.
Sophomores Sofia Basauri, Katelynn Marr and Amanda Cain expect to make added strides as they transition to becoming upperclassmen. Basauri averaged 1.48 kills per set and has 256 career kills through two seasons. Marr saw her playing time increase throughout the season as an outside hitter, while Cain appeared in every match as a defensive specialist, averaging 2.00 digs per frame.