DePaul Volleyball 2000: Unfinished Business
As the DePaul volleyball program prepares to open the inaugural season of the 21st century there is a quiet feeling of confidence coupled with an aggressive nature for continued success. Head coach Dawn Dockstader's Blue Demons are coming off a winning season in 1999 and the expectations for 2000 are even higher.
Dockstader, the 1999 Conference USA Coach of the Year, welcomes back 10 letterwinners including five starters from a squad that won 20 matches (the most since 1993) and advanced to the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament for the first time in the history of the program.
Heading the list of returnees is junior Stephanie Bishop. A 6-0 outside hitter, Bishop was the second player in school history to have 600 kills and 500 digs in the same season. For her efforts, Bishop was an All-District pick by the AVCA, a first team All-C-USA selection and was named the AVCA National Player of the Week in October after helping the Blue Demons win at 22nd-ranked Houston.
"Stephanie had one of the best seasons in DePaul history and we expect her to pick up where she left off," Dockstader said. "She really improved her consistency in serve reception and we look for her to continue to be one of the dominant outside hitters in Conference USA."
Junior setter Kara Jakusz is also back for her third season as a starter. The C-USA Player of the Week in October, Jakusz is currently third in school history in assists and set the school and league single-match assist record with 89 against UIC last season.
"Kara was very aggressive in the weight room and in her conditioning during the offseason. That coupled with her two years of experience should bring her to a whole new level," Dockstader said.
Another pair of juniors are entering their third season as starters in Christa Dirr and Melissa Nordine.
Dirr, a 5-11 middle hitter, finished third on the team in kills a year ago and led the team in blocking with 39 solos and 91 assists (the 91 block assists was the fifth-best single-season total in school history). Nordine is also a 5-11 middle hitter who led the squad in aces a year ago and posted 13 matches with double figure kill totals.
"Melissa really hit her stride in the middle of the spring season," Dockstader added. "We are counting on her to be a force in 2000."
Another pair of juniors will continue to provide the Blue Demons will defensive support in their third seasons.
Mary Anne Flanigan, a 5-9 outside hitter, recorded 255 digs as a sophomore and can bring some offensive firepower as evident by her 107 kills as a freshman. Melissa Murphy, a 5-7 defensive specialist, also worked at setter during the spring.
"Because of her outstanding athletic ability, we are looking at Mary Anne to be our rock' in serve reception and on defense," Dockstader said. "She also gives us a back row attack option.
"Melissa possesses an outstanding work ethic and that has earned her the right to be on the floor for defense in 2000," Dockstader said. "We also expect her to provide a dependable backup to Kara at setter."
The Blue Demons will have only one senior on the roster in Lauren Johnson. A 6-1 hitter, Johnson has seen limited duty in her first three seasons but Dockstader hopes for bigger things during her final season.
"Being the lone' senior, Lauren's leadership abilities will be counted on to guide this team," Dockstader said. "Lauren's maturity and work ethic will put her in a position to push for time on the right side."
DePaul will have two sophomores on the 2000 squad and both gained extensive experience in their rookie campaigns in 1999.
Meg Griffin posted 200 digs and nearly 200 kills while recording 20 aces and providing a steady blocking presence. Katie Engel played in 19 matches last season and will play more of an expanded role in 2000 after recording 44 kills and 45 digs in 1999.
"Meg is a fierce competitor and after a spring of solid weight training we expect her to become more of an offensive threat," Dockstader said. "Katie is already one of the strongest players on the team and this season she will challenge for a starting position in either the middle or the outside."
Dockstader will have a pair of freshmen on the roster in Lara Marks and Janet Cotter. Marks, a 6-2 outside hitter from Grand Rapids, Michigan, redshirted last season while Cotter, a 6-2 middle hitter, comes to DePaul from Lockport, Illinois.
"Lara took full advantage of her redshirt year and put in a tremendous amount of hard work last season. Her dedication will enable Lara to challenge for a starting position in her first season of competition," Dockstader said. "Janet made great strides during her senior season in high school and on her club team. After a full season of college level training and work in the weight room, we expect Janet to be a force in the middle."
It will be a milestone year for DePaul as the Blue Demons debut the school's new Athletic Center. The volleyball team will be the first to compete in the building when it hosts the Blue Demon Invitational in September.