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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Volleyball season preview: Strong sophomore class leads talented Judges into 2008

Season-opening 3-0 victory against Wentworth is promising, but tough tests await vs. Johnson and Wales and MIT

Published: September 5, 2008
Section: Sports

Brandeis volleyball has been on the rise as of late, winning their second straight ECAC banner, but now, they have their sights set on a new rock to climb – an NCAA postseason berth. They will look to build on their season following their opening day victory as they face tough opponents in a Cambridge tri-match on September 6, taking on MIT and Johnson and Wales.

“I’m excited; we have a lot of talent on the team,” Coach Michelle Kim said. “Our numbers are small, but we definitely have the talent so hopefully, we can stay healthy and do some good things this year.”

Johnson and Wales is no slouches of an opponent, but the true test of Brandeis’s NCAA goals comes from host school MIT. A volleyball powerhouse, MIT is ranked this year number two in the New England region, and they made it to the Sweet 16 last year, the fourth time in six years that they made the NCAA’s.

This will be the first time Brandeis faces MIT since 2006, when the Engineers swept them aside 3-0 on their way to first place at the Hall of Fame Tournament.

Making things more difficult for the Judges is a very small roster. A disappointing year of recruitment leaves the Judges with a seasoned but depth-challenged roster. Nonetheless, Coach Michelle Kim is excited about this year’s squad and their chances to make the leap to the NCAA’s.

“Recruiting definitely didn’t go well for us,” Coach Michelle Kim explained, “and I think some of the things sort of fell apart at the end – at the very end, which doesn’t help us at all, and I wish it could have gone better, but it is what it is, and this is what we have… like I said we have a talented group, and it’s something I’m grateful for, and I think this is a group that wants it and can get it done.”

Coach Kim went on, “Abby (Blasco ’11), as you know, she was the Rookie of the Year for the UAA so she’s working hard to have a repeat if not have a better performance this year. Paige (Blasco ’11) is new this year, she was with us last year as a manager capacity but she’s with us this year playing, she’s healthier this year… she’s doing well, working hard in practice. And Nikki (Smith ’11), she got a ton of playing time on Saturday and, you know, she’s working hard at practice so she’s getting a lot done. She played very well on Saturday so I’m excited.”

So far things look dandy for Coach Kim’s squad after the Judges swatted Wentworth aside 3-0. Lorraine Wingenbach ’09 continued to be the offensive dynamo for the Judges, scoring 10 kills, while Nicole Smith contributed with 9 of her own. Abby Blasco got off to a good start this season with 27 assists and seven digs. Her twin sister Paige made her college debut count, leading the defense with nine digs.

“Wentworth didn’t attack at us too, too much,” Coach Michelle Kim explained, “so our general digs per game is a little lower than where I would like it to be, but you can only get a dig when there’s a tap from the other side. Wentworth did attack, but they didn’t attack too, too much.”

After the tri-match against Johnson and Wales and MIT, the Judges return home on September 9 where they take on nearby foes Wellesley College at 7 pm.

Brandeis may have a small roster and a big test, but with Wingenbach leading the charge and Blasco providing the assists while Smith, Piera Carfagno ’10 and Bridget McAllister ’10 let nothing through, this is a team that could surprise this weekend and beyond.