2015 AU volleyball season preview
When the volleyball team takes the court this evening in Bender Arena, the players will begin a season-long quest to defend their title as 2014 Patriot League champions.
Over the last 14 years, the Eagles have claimed 12 titles in the conference, and head coach Barry Goldberg said he believes his team has a good chance to earn another Patriot League tournament victory, but he said no game will be an easy win.
AU will play perennial NCAA Championship contender University of Florida on Sunday. The Eagles will then compete in several games at George Mason University over the weekend, before traveling to Hawaii in early September to play in a tournament against previous NCAA champions, including three-time winners University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. In addition, the Eagles will do battle with all of their conference opponents except for Boston University over the course of the season.
In early June, before preseason began, Goldberg said his team’s nonconference schedule would provide a strong challenge for the players, The Eagle previously reported. He also said he still looks forward to the upcoming games but acknowledged that his team faces the pressure of defending last year’s title.
“I think it’s pressure on all 15 players to contribute,” Goldberg said. “Everybody’s job is just to make a contribution to the team.”
Praising his leaders, Goldberg said he relies on the senior players to act as mentors to the underclassmen, and he expects the freshmen to assimilate quickly into the program.
“They’ve been the backbone to our success,” Goldberg said. “They’ve all played in the NCAA tournament. All of them [are] very pretty significant contributors to our going to the Sweet 16 two years ago as well.”
AU’s roster includes five seniors this year, including two Preseason All-Patriot League selections, Monika Smidova and Allison “Cappy” Cappellino. Smidova, a senior from the Czech Republic, set three team records and made the All-Patriot League Second Team during her rookie season in 2011. Injury held her from competing in 2012, but she returned a year later to lead the conference in assists, win Patriot League Setter of the Year honors and garner an All-Patriot League First Team selection. Last year, the Eagles’ setter was named Patriot League Player of the Year and earned Setter of the Year recognition for the second year in a row.
Cappellino, a New York native, has also earned numerous Patriot League honors during her career so far with the Eagles, accumulating Patriot League All-Tournament selections in 2013 and 2014. She also stands fifth in AU’s record book for career digs with 1,094.
Goldberg said Friday’s matchup against Florida will test the team’s chemistry, and he hopes his team will be able to compete with the top national programs. Teamwork will be the key to the team’s success this year, Goldberg said, and his star players will need to work with the younger athletes and teach them the skills necessary to succeed at the college level.
“The strongest asset of our team is our seniors who have had remarkable careers so far in their stay here at American,” Goldberg said. “All of our outside hitters and setter are seniors this year, so that would be our strongest asset and helpful towards defending our Patriot League title.”