COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus State volleyball team is excited to be "back to work" for the upcoming 2017 season. The squad, who was recently ranked No. 10 in the NJCAA DIII preseason poll, has their sights set on winning a national championship after a fifth place overall finish last year. According to third year coach Jill Yocum, "The spirit in the gymnasium is amazing, high energy, and full of enthusiasm every day. The competition is fierce, but fun, giving them great team chemistry."
Along with a strong national finish, the 2016 season wrapped with a 17-10 overall record, a district championship, and third place conference finish. Against DII teams, the Cougars finish 10-9 overall and suffered only one loss all season against a DIII team, which was post-season.
The Cougars return six contributors from last season, while adding five newcomers, including one transfer to the roster. "Our returners give us not only experience but natural leadership," said Yocum. "The newcomers are fitting right in, making their mark and giving us depth in every position."
The sextet of impact sophomores include setter/opposite Allyse Rutter, outside hitter/middle blocker Morgan Danec, libero Haley Litman, setter Vicki Osborne, outside hitter Leah Conway, and right side Rachel Ralston.
Allyse Rutter (Fostoria/St. Wendelin HS) comes off of a 2016 season highlighted with first-team all-conference and all-region nods. She is a starting six position player whose "skill, game knowledge, court awareness, and positive attitude keeps everyone motivated and moving forward," according to Yocum. Last season she led her team in assists and double-doubles. She averaged 1.75 kills, 3.93 assists, and 2.56 digs per set.
Morgan Danec (Canal Winchester/Canal Winchester HS), who was an honorable mention all-conference and NJCAA all-tournament selection, had the highest number of kills and blocks of any freshman last season, averaging 1.8 kills and 1.27 blocks per set. "Morgan is a lead by example player, with a contagious love for the game," said Yocum.
Haley Litman (Grove City/Grove City HS) is "a true leader on the court and in the classroom. Her skill, quickness, and determination is truly an asset to the team," Yocum said. Along with an all-region selection, Litman is a NJCAA academic all-American who led her team in digs last season, averaging 4.2 per set.
Vicki Osborne (Nelsonville/Nelsonville-York HS) handed out an average of 3.77 assists and scooped up 1.77 digs per set last season for the Cougars. "Vicki brings a confident court presence and excellent communication skills that makes the team click," said Yocum.
Rounding out the returners are Leah Conway (Groveport/Madison Christian HS) and Rachel Ralston (Columbus/Hamilton Twp. HS). Conway, also an NJCAA academic all-American, "brings an extremely strong work ethic," according to Yocum. "She is a true tempo set specialist". Ralston "is stronger than ever and is known to the team as the Quiet Killer."
Transferring after playing one year at the University of Rio Grande is middle Hannah Fluty (Blacklick/Licking Heights HS). "Hannah adds talent, an excellent work ethic, and most importantly, a great attitude and love for the game".
Coach Yocum is thrilled with the incoming class. Abigail Lucas (Grove City/Grove City HS) "brings talent, quickness, and charisma to the middle position for the Cougars. A true team player!" Olivia Dunham's (Urbana/Urbana HS) "pin point passing, good hands and great court awareness, makes her a real asset to the 2017 team". Georgia Payne (Mansfield/Lexington HS) "is volleyball's utility player, as she has experience at every position on the court. Her versatility and position flexibility adds a new dimension to the 2017 team". Anna Megown (Dublin/Dublin Jerome HS) "brings a solid volleyball background, perfected talent and command of game knowledge".
The volleyball team opens its season at home on Fri, Aug. 25 against Edison at 6:00 p.m. The next day the team takes on Lakeland at 11:00 a.m. in the Delaware Hall Athletic Center. Columbus State has nine home matches, ten road matches and seven neutral site contests in regular season play.