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How we see the Big East: Young SHU volleyball needs to find consistency

[caption id="attachment_11641" align="alignnone" width="838"]Katie Cahalin/Staff Photographer Katie Cahalin/Staff Photographer[/caption]   Young, inexperienced and injured, but still hanging in there. Just one year removed from their magical 28-8 season, and a Big East Championship appearance, Seton Hall Volleyball has fallen back down to earth, sitting at sixth in the Big East with a 5-6 conference record, and 11-12 overall. The Pirates lost some integral players from last year’s starting lineup, including middle blocker Ashani Rubin, setter Shelbey Manthorpe, and outside hitter Stacey Manthorpe. Ashani Rubin was regularly amongst the Big East leaders in blocks, and the Manthorpe twins combined for a ton of the Pirates kills over their four years in the Walsh Gym. Losing them hurt, there’s no doubt that. But fourth year head coach Allison Yeager has done a nice job recruiting a talented group of freshman to help build for the future, and potentially contend for a playoff spot this year.
It’s normal for any program to have a few true freshman that they mix into their lineup with some of the more veteran players. Seton Hall has much more than a “sprinkle” of first year players. Instead, the Pirates have had six true freshman regularly rotating in and out of their starting lineup, and playing major roles during each play, each set and each game. Replacing both Stacey and Shelbey Manthorpe is no easy task, as they’re arguably two of the best volleyball players that Seton Hall has ever seen. Ashani Rubin was a strong defensive player, and seemed to know how to place her shots in the right areas of the court. Sophia Coffey (Sierra Madre, Calif.) has done a nice job as the setter, fitting in nicely with the rest of the lineup. She’s averaging 9.37 assists per set, as well as adding 69 kills through 23 games. Coffey had a very strong game in the win over DePaul, tallying 36 assists and seven kills through four sets.
In the loss to Marquette, her 45 assists put her in the top 10 in school history already. She’s recorded over 800 assists in just 23 games. Cherise Hennigan (Corona, Ca- lif.) has stepped up nicely in an attempt to fill the void left by Stacey Manthorpe. Her 2.68 kills per set are second among the outside/opposite hitters, and the highest out of all of the freshman. In my opinion, Abby Thelen is the most promising player out of all of the newcomers. The 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky is off to a nice start to her first season at the Hall. Starting all 23 games, Thelen has made her mark in all areas of the game. She’s averaging a respectable 1.74 kills per game with a .245 attack percentage. She’s also averaging .80 blocks per set, working well with whoever is on the court to help defend against the other team’s best players.
What’s also promising is the fact that Thelen gets to learn under Amanda Hansen, who is enjoying her best season at the Hall, racking up kills and picking up nearly a block per set. Hansen is climbing her way up the record boards in her last season here, and Thelen gets to learn from her in her prime. Despite the large presence of freshman in the starting lineup, the Hall finds themselves just two wins out of a playoff spot, with games against the two teams ahead of them still to come. There’s a chance for some late season magic, and it’s in the hands of the future of the Pirates.
  Bobby Bevilacqua can be reached at or on twitter @rpb725.

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