2019 VOLLEYBALL preview

The 2019 version of the Middlebury volleyball program is prepared for a run at a NESCAC Championship and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, fueled by a solid group of returning players.

Head Coach Sarah Raunecker

Led by head coach Sarah Raunecker, who enters her 25th season on the Panther bench, Middlebury returns veterans at each position in the rotation. The team produced a 17-6 record a season ago, including a seven-match winning streak at the end of September and early October, as well as a five-match victory run to close the regular season before falling in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. LONG SENT

Gigi Alper

Following the loss of two First-Team All-Region and All-NESCAC performers, a class of senior captains comprised of Gigi Alper, Chellsa Ferdinand and Beth Neal anchor the returners.

Chellsa Ferdinand

Alper is a three-year starter as a libero, ranking fourth in the NESCAC in digs (394) and fifth in digs per set (4.75) a year ago. She had 22 service aces and handed out 91 assists in 2018. Ferdinand is a three-year setter as the quarterback of the Middlebury offense. She dished out 734 assists and had 2.68 digs per set, 26 service aces and 33 total blocks. Her assists per set (9.92) placed her third in the NESCAC. Neal is a three-year contributor who will be looked upon for leadership and will battle for time in the rotation.

Beth Neal

The program welcomes back a group of young and experienced outside hitters, including sophomores Maggie Wise, Jane Nelson and Ali Wheeler. Wise had 2.53 kills per set in her first season to rank third on the team, posting 15 kills twice in a match, while Nelson produced 1.14 kills in 56 sets. Wheeler played in 25 sets during her initial season and had 39 digs.

Maggie Wise

Junior Shea Golden was a versatile player who paced the Panthers with 34 service aces, to go along with 81 kills and 161 digs, while classmate Jamie Donnelly had 25 kills and 21 digs.

Sophomore middle hitter Corley Doyle saw significant playing time in 2018, while classmate Isabella Marcus will battle for time in the lineup. Doyle had 1.86 kills per set and was second on the team with a .354 hitting percentage and 47 total blocks at the net. Marcus ended her initial season with 0.92 kills per set in limited action last fall.

Corley Doyle

Junior Emma Walsh handed out 9.64 assists per set in 11 sets played and will vie for time in the rotation alongside Ferdinand. Defensive specialist El Tyler has been hampered due to injuries over her first two years and looks to return to the court this fall for the Panthers. A talented group of first-year players at each position will add depth and push the returners for time.

The Panthers open their season at the Union Tri-Match on September 7 when they play Manhattanville and the host Dutchwomen. Middlebury plays its first home match on September 18 when it hosts Colby-Sawyer, before beginning NESCAC play two days later at Colby. The Panthers will also take part in the annual New England Challenge, featuring the top teams from the NESCAC and NEWMAC, on October 18-19 hosted by MIT.