BUCKHANNON - West Virginia Wesleyan's volleyball team posted a solid 21-11 record in 2011, and with several key returnees from that squad, coach Jackie Murphy is looking at another strong campaign this fall.
The fourth-year coach sports a squad that enters the season ranked fifth in the league's preseason coaches' poll.
"With our returning core and new players, we have so many more options than we have had in the past," Murphy said. "From our returning players we have four athletes that can play two different positions effectively."
Senior Renata Comparini returns at the libero spot, and is one of the premier defenders in the league. The native of Santiago, Chile, responded with 526 digs last season, and played in a critical role in the team's run of success. Comparini was a second-team all-conference performer.
"Renata led our team in digs last year and we'll look for her to lead our team and the conference in defense. She is a solid force on serve receive and defense," Murphy said. "She has an unbelievable court sense and reads her attackers quickly."
Junior Casey Pattyn returns as the team's setter. She recorded a total of 1018 assists in 2011, giving Murphy an experienced player to work the offense.
"Casey is a great player to have on the squad. She works extremely hard and attempts to better the ball every play she can," Murphy said. "Her chemistry with Renata is rare; those two work really well together. If they touch 90% of the first and second contact, we are going to be a hard team to defend."
Several players benefitted from Comparini and Pattyn in putting up some key offensive numbers. Two other players back who were strong forces last season include junior Korin Wengryn and sophomore Erin Bond.
Bond recorded 271 kills and 103 blocks last season. Joining her with some solid numbers at the net, Wengryn tallied 148 kills and 57 total blocks.
"Koryn has one of the quickest springs in the conference," Murphy said. "She is fast, agile and a quick attacker in the front row."
"Erin Bond was a wonderful addition to our program last fall," Murphy said. "She earned a starting spot early in the season and was second on the team in kills. She is versatile with her offensive capabilities."
Wesleyan opens up Aug. 31, playing in the two-day Fairmont State "Falcon Fest."
The Bobcats open up with Edinboro, and will get a good competition and fitness test early.
Coach Murphy's squad will play four non-conference opponents over the two-day span, beginning with the Fighting Scots of Edinboro.
"We are a younger program with only one senior and need to replace a few dominating forces from last season, but we have high hopes for the replacements," Murphy said. "Once we eliminate our freshman mistakes and find players to fill the leadership roles the seniors had last fall, our hope is to rise to the next level."