Just making the NCAA Division II playoffs is not enough for the Clarion women’s volleyball team.
The team has reached that goal in 10 of the past 12 seasons with an Elite Eight run occurring in 2010.
This team looks to be no different, but it may come at the cost of some growing pains.
“I think we are a new team,” Clarion’s eighth-year head coach Jen Mills told Clarion Sports Information prior to the start of the season. “I think it definitely helps that we’ve had success here… but there are so many young kids who they’ve not necessarily experienced it yet.”
Clarion had a great deal of turnover coming into the 2014 campaign.
Clarion finished last season with an overall record of 32-5, 20-2 in the PSAC, but was knocked out in the second round of the tournament for the second straight season.
Mills has to find replacements for All-Region players in Hannah Heeter and Emily Stewart, All-Conference Corrine Manley and defensive specialists in Lauren Magalski and Megan Condit.
All the players were apart of the 2010 Elite Eight run.
“We lost athletes that were comfortable in adverse situations. With a young team, you look to leadership from the girls that have lived it, specifically [seniors] Laura Subject, Carlie Bieranowski and [junior] Morgan Seybold. They provide a perspective that allows them to teach our younger players how to relax a bit and enjoy the process of getting better each day.”
Those seniors have shown their worth so far this season.
Following Tuesday night’s victory over Indiana, Clarion is ranked No. 39 in the nation among Division II schools with a record of 14-1 overall and 6-1 in the PSAC with their only blemish being to California University, who knocked them out of the tournament last season, in straight sets.
Subject has 547 set assists on the year, which puts her at 3,271 career set assists which ranks top five in school history and only the fourth player in school history with 3,000 career assists.
Bieranowski leads the team in overall total points with 156, 132 of which came the way of a kill, which is second best on the team.
Seybold is Clarion’s rock in the back row.
As Clarion’s libero, Seybold is responsible for keeping the ball alive when the opposing team attacks.
She led the PSAC last season with 802 digs and is well on her way to accomplishing that feat once again this season as she sits just shy of 300 digs with 298.
And those freshman who have big shoes to fill?
They have lived up to the challenge.
Two freshmen in particular, Taylor Braungel and Gabrielle Olson, have shown they’re not afraid of the spotlight.
Braunagel and Olson rank second and fifth on the team respectively for total points.
Braunagel leads the team in kills with 146 while Olson leads the team in blocked shots with 39.
Mills expressed her overall feelings of this team.“This group works very hard and I think that we are fairly deep at each position. I’m very excited about the potential with this group and I am happy with the progress thus far. If we improve with each practice and match, we are doing some good things.”
Clarion is in the midst of a 10-game home stand and looks to continue its success against Gannon and Mercyhurst this weekend before its biggest game of the season against No. 6 ranked Wheeling Jesuit on Oct. 7.