Entering his 11th year as head coach of the Susquehanna volleyball team, Kuuipo Tom added eight new faces to his already youthful squad.
“This is an impressive class,” he said. “We brought in players that allow us to move the ball around so we’re not dependent on one or two players to get the job done.”
The Crusaders had to replace honorable mention All-American Emily Carson ’13 and Kaylee Monga ’13, both players with their names etched in the SU record books. “They will be hard to replace,” Tom stated, “but we have a lot of players capable of stepping up.
“The atmosphere at our practices this preseason has been charged,” Tom continued. “Even though our team is so young, over time as the players grow, we will be something to watch out for.”
SU was predicted to finish in second place in the 2013 Landmark Conference preseason poll, receiving one first-place tally. Tom enters this season needing only three more victories for 200 career wins as he is already the program’s all-time winningest coach.
Tom welcomes first-year assistant coach Sherri
Clukey to the program.
“She is very active in USA volleyball and knows the local volleyball scene,” Tom commented. “She will be in charge of technical aspects of the team.”
Among the many new players is Maggie O’Hearn (Mountville, Pa. / Hempfield), a heralded all-state setter who guided her high school team to three Pennsylvania AAA state title games, capturing the championship in her sophomore and senior seasons.
“Maggie is very talented,” Tom said of the freshman. “She has a very high volleyball I.Q. for her age.”
Also new to the program is Marykate Sherkness (Treskow,
Pa. / Marian Catholic), another all-state performer at
“Sherkness is very strong and will contribute for us throughout the year,” Tom stated.
Erin Byrne (San Diego, Calif. / Scripps Ranch),
hailing from the West Coast, brings several intangibles to the
“She is a lefty right-side hitter, has size and is a great setter for being nearly six feet tall,” Tom said.
Kady Faller (Reading, Pa. / Exeter Township)
spent time with the squad during the 2013 spring season.
“I expect Kady to step up as a sophomore,” Tom said. “She developed chemistry with the upperclassmen last spring and will have multiple roles on the team.
“Middle hitter Leana Carvin (Walnutport, Pa. / Northampton Area) brings great passion and energy with her physical talent and we will work with outside hitter Nickey Sanders (Chambersburg, Pa. / Chambersburg Area) throughout the season as she contributes to the team,” Tom continued.
Two players in the mold of sophomore libero Sarah Paluck (Nesquehoning, Pa. / Tamaqua) are Corinne Eidle (Reading, Pa. / Wyomissing Area) and Alyssa Chiodo (Lansdale, Pa. / North Penn).
“All three of these players are very quick and strong,” Tom praised. “Opponents will have a hard time killing the ball—these girls are that fast.”
Tom welcomes back several key contributors to last year’s team including juniors Hayley Dunkel (Pottsville, Pa. / Pottsville Area), Jessica Holm (Montvale, N.J. / Pascack Hills) and Julia Caruso (Collegeville, Pa. / Perkiomen Valley).
Dunkel ranked as high as 17th in blocks in all of Division III last year, recording 153 total blocks to go along with 118 kills. Holm, a co-captain, has played 270 career matches, recording 421 kills and 151 blocks. Caruso has appeared in 215 career matches, notching 1,194 assists and 288 digs during that span.
“These three will be counted on for their leadership as well as their valuable playing experience,” Tom said.
The aforementioned Paluck played in 143 sets, recording 556 digs with 39 service aces in her rookie season.
Sophomore Rachel Wherry (New Castle, Pa. / Neshannock) developed as middle hitter in 2012 and is holding this spot down through preseason. Wherry appeared in 28 games last year recording 17 kills.
Unfortunately, the Crusaders lost co-captain Morgan Whiteman (Camp Hill, Pa. / Trinity) to a pre-season injury and will be without her duties for an undisclosed amount of time. Whiteman played 142 games recording 48 kills, 359 assists, 58 service aces and 192 digs last year.
“This was unexpected but the team is making contingencies and this is another opportunity for players to step up,” Tom stated.
SU opens the season at the Haverford Invitational on August 31 before hosting the Crusader Classic on September 6-8 and the Old Friends Crossover Tournament on September 13.
The Crusaders have two dual matches at home against Wilkes on September 10 and Lancaster Bible on October 23.
Susquehanna hosts the first Landmark Conference round robin weekend on October 5-6. The Crusaders play Goucher, Merchant Marine and Scranton. In the second conference weekend at Merchant Marine on Oct. 19-20, SU plays Juniata, Catholic and Moravian.
This marks the final year of the round robin format due to the Landmark’s addition of Elizabethtown in 2014.
This year’s squad will be heading to southern California—which happens to be one hour north of freshman Erin Byrne’s hometown—from Oct. 12-13 to play Pomona-Pitzer, Claremont Mudd-Scripps and Whitter. The past few seasons have seen SU travel to Texas, Alabama, Indiana and Illinois.