SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – If there is one thing for certain when looking at the upcoming Seton Hall volleyball season, it’s that head coach Allison Yaeger has many familiar faces entering her third season.
The Pirates, who finished 16-15 overall and 7-9 in the Big East and surged to fifth in the conference with three consecutive wins to end the 2013 campaign. This year’s team will once again hinge on the performance of senior captain and three-time All-Big East Preseason Team honoree Shelbey Manthorpe. The setter led the country with 10 triple doubles and tallied a team-best 23 double-doubles. A streak of nine straight to end last season was a big reason for the Pirates’ improved play. Manthorpe was the sparkplug for the blue and white, racking up 1,077 assists (8.76 per set) for the Pirates and earning all-conference second team honors. SHU took ninth in the Big East last season with 11.05 assists per set. It’s clear that if the Pirates are to put together their fourth straight winning season, it’s going to have to start with their standout in the middle.
While Shelbey leads the set-up to the attack for the blue and white, opposing defenses have another Manthorpe to worry about. Stacey, the twin sister of Shelbey, powered the Pirates with 2.67 kills per set last season, garnering All-Big East Second Team honors for the second consecutive season. Stacey was second on the team with 14 double-doubles, combining with Shelbey for 562 kills.
What appeared heading into the preseason as a question mark has not been much of one at all for Seton Hall. New libero Tessa Fournier will take over for the program all-time digs leader Alyssa Warren, who wrote her name in the history books as one of the best Pirates to ever step in Walsh Gym last season before graduating. She is the only Pirate with over 2,000 career digs. While Fournier is no Warren, the coaching staff has been extremely pleased with her progression. While young, the sophomore brings experience to the table after playing in all 31 of SHU’s games last season. With the departure of Fournier from her back line role comes the promotion of a freshman and a new starter for Seton Hall. Sarah Kenneweg, the lone freshman for the Pirates, will serve in the back line after playing at Poolesville High School. Kenneweg, who will be at middle back, has some veteran help alongside her with junior Sarah Connell. Connell played in every match last season, and her role will expand for The Hall after she was fifth with 248 digs (2.00 per set).
In the front line, the Pirates return two veteran players that were part of a 2013 team that ranked third in the Big East last season with 2.62 blocks per set. Amanda Hansen, who was second for the Pirates with 2.30 kills per set, was second on the team with 1.03 blocks per set. Senior Ashani Rubin has been a player the coaching staff is very high on. Rubin led the team with 161 blocks, a mark good for second in the Big East.
Just as Hansen and Rubin will give SHU a boost defensively, graduate student Simona Sekulova and junior Molly Grammer will be key factors on the attacking front. Both players were plagued by injuries last season. Along with sophomore Dani Schroeder, who received minutes as a freshman and recorded 170 kills last season, the Pirates, who were picked sixth out of tenth in the Big East Preseason Poll, have some versatility in place.
Seton Hall will play in four invitationals this fall, two of which will be inside Walsh Gym. The Pirates will play seven more home games. The Big East has also gone under renovation with the addition of Providence, which left the America East. While last year’s team did not play a home game until Oct. 8, this year, The Hall will open up action on Sept. 5 in Seton Hall Invitational action against Cornell and Siena. For a complete breakdown of the schedule, go to an earlier post on the release of the slate at http://www.thesetonian.com/news/view.php/788543/Seton-Hall-Volleyball-Releases-Home-Heav.
John Fanta can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @John_Fanta. For complete coverage of Seton Hall athletics, follow @setoniansports.