Volleyball to open 2019 season at Penn State Classic
Kathleen Colpoys, entering her first season as head coach of the Holy Cross volleyball team, perhaps holds an advantage over most new head coaches. Colpoys, a four-year starter for the Crusaders from 2008 to 2011 and a team captain as a senior, holds the distinction of being the only player in Holy Cross history to record 700 kills and 200 blocks in her career – and beyond her playing experience, she possesses a strong passion for and familiarity with the Holy Cross volleyball community.
“It’s special to be wearing Holy Cross volleyball gear again and to be able to continue to work with this group to achieve success in the Patriot League,” Colpoys said. “It’s been really special, too, to have all the support from the alumni, my former teammates, their families, my family – I’ve received great support at all the schools I’ve been at, but it’s even more and different here, and I am so grateful for that.”
After four seasons as the head coach at Stonehill College, Colpoys returns to The Hill with a focus on the continued growth of the team’s culture and academic success, but also in pursuit of an accomplishment that eluded the team during her playing career: a trip to the Patriot League Tournament. Holy Cross has not qualified for the conference postseason since the league’s playoff format changed following the 1995 season.
As the Crusaders open the 2019 season at the Penn State Classic on Friday, August 30, the team is primed to achieve that goal, returning nearly all of its key contributors from a season ago and holding plenty of motivation to continue making strides in a competitive Patriot League – under the direction of a coach who can relate uniquely to their experiences as Holy Cross volleyball players.
“As a student-athlete, I loved my experience here, and I have a lot of passion and pride for Holy Cross volleyball – and I also have a lot of pride for elevating the program and continuing to help us be successful,” Colpoys said. “Being able to have that opportunity to come back is huge. I still have that pride, and now it’s just from a different vantage point.”
2019 Team Outlook
In 2018, the Holy Cross volleyball team saw improvement in conference play, posting its most Patriot League wins in program history (seven); the Crusaders also beat perennial powerhouse American on Nov. 3 for the first time in 37 matchups between the two teams. Colpoys looks to continue building on that improvement during the team’s quest to return to the Patriot League Tournament, anticipating a “scrappy” style of play from her team in 2019.
“We have that work ethic, and we want to make sure that it’s hard for people to score on us,” Colpoys said. “We want everyone to have to earn points against us, and we want to outwork our opponents in rallies.”
Junior outside hitter Rachel Harding and junior middle blocker Clare Honan will serve as co-captains for the Crusaders, who lose just two letterwinners and will see nine juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season. Honan, who led the team with 74 blocks in 2018, broke a Patriot League record in 2018 when she recorded a .867 hitting percentage in a match against Bucknell on Sept. 28. Harding appeared in 83 sets during her sophomore season, averaging 1.73 kills per set and 2.02 digs per set.
Junior middle blocker Katie Kerins matched Honan for the most sets played in 2018, with 107. Kerins led the team with 243 kills for an average of 2.27 per set; sophomore outside hitter Johnna Shamley had a team-leading 2.38 kills per set during an impressive rookie campaign.
Sophomore outside hitter Regan Wright led the Patriot League and ranked eighth nationally in service aces in 2018, with 55, averaging 0.56 per set. She additionally led the Crusaders in digs, with 310.
“They have a lot of energy, they have a lot of passion for the sport and they’re very passionate about Holy Cross volleyball being successful,” Colpoys said about the team. “They want to work hard. And those are things that you love as a coach. That’s probably the biggest takeaway – this team is here, they’re hungry, they want to work. So with that, we’ve been able to continue to make gains and make progress as we go throughout preseason and get closer to that opening weekend.
“Right now, we have great competition at every single position, genuinely, which has made it an exciting preseason,” Colpoys said. “It will continue to make our jobs hard as coaches in a good way – figuring out what’s going to be the best combination to get wins – and I anticipate that competition to continue throughout the season, with people continuing to push each other, and the lineup could evolve from there. I’ve been impressed with the freshman class as a whole. They work really hard, and they’re clearly committed to getting better.”
The season will open with a challenging test at the Penn State Classic on August 30 and 31, with the Crusaders slated to take on Wichita State, No. 8 Penn State and Hofstra during their opening weekend.
“That’ll be a good opportunity for us to play with some of the best of the best and be able to challenge ourselves against that faster tempo, more power, bigger block,” Colpoys said.
Holy Cross will also compete in three other tournaments prior to the conference season: the Holly Young Invitational at the University of New Hampshire on Sept. 6 and 7, the DePaul Invitational on Sept. 13 and 14, and the Dog Pound Challenge at the University of Connecticut on Sept. 19 and 21.
“Our DePaul trip is going to be great from an off-the-court standpoint – we have a lot of players from the Midwest, and a lot of players’ families and extended families are going to be at that tournament,” Colpoys said. “That’ll be exciting from a program standpoint, but also the competition will be really good that weekend against some really good teams out of our region.”
The home opener will be on Sept. 10 against Merrimack College. Patriot League play is set to begin at home on Sept. 27 against Loyola (Md.).
“All of the matches will be very competitive, which should help us, because this conference continues to have more parity,” Colpoys said. “Being in those close, competitive matches and finding a way to win is what we’re going to need to do for the bulk of our Patriot League season.”
Holy Cross (0-0)
at Penn State Classic
|vs. Wichita State||Aug. 30, 2019 | 5 p.m.|
|at No. 8 Penn State||Aug. 31, 2019 | 10 a.m.|
|vs. Hofstra||Aug. 31, 2019 | 5 p.m.|
|Location||University Park, Pa.|
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Things to Know About Wichita State (0-0):
- This will be the first matchup in program history between the Crusaders and Shockers.
- Wichita State finished with a 14-18 record overall and 8-10 mark in conference in 2018.
- The Shockers return two starters in outside hitter Megan Taflinger and middle blocker Emma Wright.
- Wichita State welcomes 11 newcomers to its roster in 2019, with eight freshmen and three transfers.
- The Shockers have won four conference tournament titles and seven regular-season championships in the American Athletic Conference.
Things to Know About No. 8 Penn State (0-0):
- This will also be the first time in program history that the Crusaders and Nittany Lions have met.
- After finishing with a 26-8 record overall and 14-6 mark in a competitive Big Ten Conference, the Nittany Lions were selected as the No. 8-ranked team nationally in a preseason poll by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
- Penn State advanced to the final of the NCAA Regional in Palo Alto, Calif., falling to eventual national champion Stanford in 2018.
- Penn State was one of the top blocking teams in the nation a year ago, ranking sixth with an average of 2.87 blocks per set. Middle blocker Serena Gray, who averaged 1.24 blocks per set, returns for the Nittany Lions.
- Four All-Americans return for the Nittany Lions: libero Kendall White, a two-time selection, setter Jonni Parker, Gray and middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord.
Things to Know About Hofstra:
- Holy Cross and Hofstra last met during the 2013 season, with the Crusaders taking a 3-0 win.
- With a 25-8 overall record and 13-3 mark in league play in 2018, the Pride went on to win the Colonial Athletic Association Championship. They fell in their first match of the NCAA Tournament to Nebraska, who went on to advance to the national championship game.
- Outside hitter Laura Masciullo, who averaged 3.67 kills per set in 2018, was named the CAA Preseason Player of the Year.
- Last season, setter Luisa Sydlik totaled 1,468 assists to rank eighth in the nation in that category. She was named the CAA Setter of the Year and to the CAA All-Conference third team.