There were plenty of questions at this point last season, as former Ivy League Player of the Year Sabrina King '01 prepared for her first season as the head coach of Princeton women's volleyball. One season later, Princeton feels much better about both its depth and experience, and it is looking for a stronger finish to this Ivy League season.
Princeton went 18-8 overall, 11-3 in the Ivy League, last season and stayed in the league race until the final weekend. Though it graduated two All-Ivy seniors in Cathryn Quinn and Hillary Ford, five starters will return to the floor this weekend as Princeton opens its 2012 season at the Hofstra Invitational.
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Leading the way is two-time first-team All-Ivy League selection Lydia Rudnick, a senior tri-captain (along with Molly Bagshaw and Jennifer Palmquist) who has been among the league's top hitters throughout her career. She averaged 3.85 kills per set last season and is 16 kills short of 1,000 for her career.
While Rudnick has been Princeton's go-to hitter on the outside, King has worked hard to make sure Rudnick has plenty of swings left for the Ivy League season. Expect to see a balanced offensive attack during the early tournaments, which will help get the younger players some early experience.
The second outside last season was Sarah Hanna, who should benefit from the added experience. She averaged 2.3 kills per set last season, and she showed during a Harvard-Dartmouth home weekend just how explosive she can be; Hanna averaged 14.5 kills in the two matches, both of which were 3-2 victories.
King also has several options off the bench, including juniors Chelsea Parker and Sydney Brombal. Both have starting experience as freshmen, and both bring varied strengths to the court.
Quinn, who was in the hunt for Ivy League Player of the Year honors last season, leaves a void in the middle, but King expects three players to battle for the two spots. Sophomore Nicole Kincade averaged 1.7 kills last season, a number that would need to rise this year, but she showed a lot of potential on defense with more than one block per set. Junior Leah Jordan has starting experience and averaged 1.2 kills per set, while sophomore Tiana Woolridge brings a wealth of athleticism and potential to the position.
Palmquist finished fourth on the team with 1.7 kills per set at the opposite position, and she remains a dangerous option. Sophomore Francie Jenkins showed some ability in limited action, especially in wins over both Penn and Columbia.
Leading the offense will be Ginny Willis, who earned second-team All-Ivy honors as the starting setter last season. She averaged nearly 11 assists per set as a freshman, and her added experience should make the offense work even faster and more efficiently this season.
King has five freshmen in the mix, and at least two could see immediate time on the court. Kendall Peterkin earned 2011 All-America Highest Honorable Mention by PrepVolleyball.com and was nationally ranked in both kills and hitting last season. Peterkin has been impressive in the preseason and is pushing for a starting role.
The graduation of Ford has left the libero position open, and freshmen Sarah Daschbach and Anne Ferlmann are two top contenders.