Despite Heavy Losses, Pirates Hopeful In 2012

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University volleyball team is looking to follow up a successful 2011 season with a promising 2012 season as it begins play next weekend.

Whitworth finished last season with an overall record of 19-7, and won its second straight conference title which led to head coach Steve Rupe earning his fourth Northwest Conference Coach of the Year honor. The Pirates graduated five seniors from last year's team, including 2011 NWC Player of the Year Kaimi Rocha.

"We lost a lot of fire power from last year that cannot be replaced," said Pirate head coach Steve Rupe.  "We will be a very good side out team with strong defense and ball control. Our junior returners will have to step into a spotlight role on the team."

Among those returning are Kristine Kardell (Jr., MB, Aurora, Colo.), Jalana White (Jr., RS, Post Falls, Idaho) and Whitney Santos (Jr., DS, Wailuku, Hawaii). Kardell started every match for the Bucs last season, averaged 1.75 kills/set and recorded 45 blocks.  White played in every match last season, averaged 1.78 kills/set and recorded 54 blocks. Santos played in 24 matches, recorded 21 aces and 301 digs. She averaged 3.46 digs/set.

Whitworth will see a new face in the setter position, with the graduation of Bree Riddle from the 2011 team. Among those vying for the spot are newcomers Maddye Dinsmore (Fr., S, Burns, Ore.), Shawna Korshavn (Fr., S, Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Anna Buck (Jr., S, Bellevue, Wash.).

The Pirates will also have to fill the void left by the loss of outside hitters Kaimi Rocha and Amanda Grumbach, who both earned All-NWC honors last season.  Abi Hedlund (Jr., OH, LaConner, Wash.) returns from last season where she played in seven matches and started three of those.  Hedlund recorded 35 kills and 34 digs. Newcomers Nicole Leonard (Fr., OH, Thousand Oaks, Calif.), Jacqueline Brennan (Fr., OH, King Hill, Idaho) and Emily Anderson (Fr., OH, LaConner, Wash.) are also options for the outside hitter position. Jalana White may also rotate over from the right side to play outside. 

One of the adjustments that the Pirates will have to make is the addition of seven freshmen to the roster. Coach Rupe likes what he has seen from the team so far.

"Our freshman class is very athletic and experienced," Rupe said. "A lot of them have extensive club experience and will bring a high level of play to our group. We have a very competitive team with numerous players that bring unique roles to the team."

Just missing out on the AVCA preseason Top 25, Whitworth is also picked second in the NWC coaches poll.

The Pirates travel to Springfield, Ohio to open up the season where they will face two opponents ranked in the Top 25 of the AVCA Coaches Poll, No. 5 Wittenberg and No. 24 Trinity (Tex.), along with Wartburg. Whitworth returns home to host the Whit Classic on September 6-8.