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Volleyball underclassmen cause for optimism during rebuilding year

The 2019 season for Seton Hall women’s volleyball can generously be described as a rebuilding year. The Pirates currently sit at 7-19, including 2-10 in Big East play, merely a week after the de-facto midway point the conference slate. The Pirates have to win all six remaining conference gamesand hope the conference’s upper half team struggle in order to be one of the four squads to qualify for the Big East tournament.

While their conference record may look abysmal and is a significant downturn from recent years slight silver linings exist amidst the apparently gray backdrop. The two conference wins, although against fellow second tier teams Georgetown and Providence, are building blocks. So are winning a set each against DePaul and Villanova, who currently sit at third place in the conference standings.

The Pirates also took Marquette, ranked No. 12 nationally, to the brink in the second set of their Oct. 26 match. Marquette won the set 42-40 and eventually swept the match in straight sets, but the Pirates proved that Walsh Gymnasium is not an easy stop on the road to a Big East title for the Golden Eagles.

Photo via SHU Athletics

While realistically the hopes for 2019’s edition of Seton Hall Volleyball are dimming, there is reason for optimism in the succeeding years. The team leaders in kills, Haylee Gasser with 255, and assists, Maggie Cvelbar with 613, graduate, but numerous contributors return for 2020.

Five freshmen saw the court for coach Allison Yaeger’s team this year. Raygan Murray leads the team with 330 digs and is third on the team with 16 service aces. Reece Koehler and Julia Wilkins have 121 and 158 kills, respectively. Wilkins 158 kills are good for third on the team. In limited playing time, Reagan Hopp has 38 kills and Grace Rosenberg has 16 kills and 167 assists in only 31 sets played. As expected, the freshmen’s brilliance is tempered by mistakes, as Murray also leads the team with 33 service errors.

The freshmen serve as neophyte replacements for graduated stars Abby Thelen, Miranda Higginbotham and Caitlin Koska, who provided most of the offensive production for the Pirates in 2018. They also led to the Pirates to a Big East Tournament appearance as sophomores and finished above .500 in conference play in two of their four years.

Filling their shoes as offensive leaders have been Cvelbar, Gasser and Amanda Rachwal. Rachwal, a junior, is second on the team with 199 kills and the team leader in blocks with 58. Rachwal will be the leading attacker up front after Gasser graduates. Elizabeth Sottung leads the team with 23 service aces and is third on the team with 188 digs. Sophomore libero Eden Dolezal has 159 digs, good for fourth on the team.

Numerous underclassmen contributing at every position is the main reason why Pirates volleyball fans are optimistic about the future and hope that 2019 is a mere rebuilding year and not the first chapter in a string of down seasons for Seton Hall. The Pirates return to action Nov. 8 against Butler, hoping to end 2019 on a good note.

Matthew Collins can be reached at

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