Aug. 22, 2016
DENVER - The University of Denver volleyball team was voted as the 2016 Summit League preseason favorite last week, among a poll of the league's nine head coaches, as the Pioneers have won the last two Summit League regular-season and tournament championships. This season marks the first under the direction of head coach Tom Hogan, who has been an assistant and associate head coach with DU since 2012.
"This is likely to be the most competitive and exciting season yet for volleyball in the Summit League," Hogan said. "Every team has made great improvements and will be bringing back deep rosters and talented veterans. It's a conference on the rise, and we're both honored to be a part of it and ready to rise to the challenge."
Denver returns seven starters from the 2015 season, with senior Ruth Okoye and junior Kayla Principato named 'Players to Watch' in the Summit League poll and will join junior Cassie Baird and senior Moni Corrujedo on the front line. Junior Cassidy Rooke returns as the team's libero, while senior Monique Domme and junior Piyusha Boteju will look to split time at setter.
Okoye, the 2015 Summit League Tournament MVP, will anchor the middle position as she looks to step into the role left behind by the lone departing starter Sarah Schmid. The Aurora, Colo., native finished second on the team in 2015 with 127 total blocks, fifth with 221 kills and a 1.75 kills per set average on a .303 attack percentage.
"Our returning veterans have logged a lot of time working hard in the gym and the weight room to really raise the level of their games," Hogan said. "Ruth made a conscious decision to learn and grow every single day of the offseason, and I'm very excited to see what she accomplishes this fall."
Principato will be the Pioneers' lone returner from the All-Summit League first team, while she also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. The Rockville Centre, N.Y., native completed the 2015 campaign with a team-leading 323 kills, a 2.52 kills per set average coupled with a .264 hitting percentage, and was one of three DU players to finish with 100 total blocks.
Baird, of Indianapolis, returns as an honorable mention of the All-Summit League team as she ended 2015 with 244 kills in 128 sets for a 1.91 kills per set average and a .215 hitting percentage. She added 232 digs, 37 blocks and was also productive at the service line as she totaled 41 service aces on the year for the 51st best mark in the nation.
"Cassie has expanded her role on the team and has become a leader on the court," Hogan said. "She worked aggressively in the offseason and this preseason to push herself to the next level, and she's inspiring her teammates to do the same."
Corrujedo is the fourth Pioneer to return with at least 200 kills as she finished third on the team with 259 in 122 sets, a 2.12 kills per set average paired with a .192 hitting percentage, 12 service aces, 214 digs and 48 blocks.
Rooke returns as the leading defensive specialist for Denver as she led the Summit League with 574 digs for a 4.48 digs per set average over the course of the season. She ended the 2015 year ranked 38th in the nation for total digs as she broke the 20-dig mark in 10 matches.
Domme got the start as the primary setter for the Pioneers in 30 matches and led the way with 740 assists in 122 sets played for a 6.07 assists per set average. She also added 285 digs on defense for the second-best mark behind Rooke.
Boteju was the second setter to see extensive action on the floor as she finished second with 577 assists and a 5.25 assists per set average, adding 213 digs and 13 service aces.
"One of our team's strengths is our depth, both in talent and in character," said coach Hogan. "Every player on our roster will make a major impact on our 2016 season."
Senior Nola Basey and sophomore Becca Latham also return as DU letter winners. Basey finished the season with 142 kills on 117 sets, a 1.21 kills per set average to go with a .191 hitting percentage, and added 176 digs and 26 blocks to her career totals. Latham earned a spot on the Summit League All-Freshman team after tallying 140 kills in 110 sets, a 1.27 kills per set average paired with a .236 swing percentage, and posted 55 blocks on the net for the fourth-best mark on the team.
Rounding out the returners are senior Kelly Morton, redshirt sophomores Taylor Loyd and Nikki Kennedy, and sophomores Olivia Novotny and Emma Willis.
Three talented new players join the team this year, coming off impressive high school and club careers: Shannon Geraty (RSH, Fr., Dove Canyon, Calif.), Hannah Erwin (S, Fr., Conroe, Texas) and Andrea Eddy (S, Fr., Evergreen, Colo.).
On the coaching staff, Hogan will be joined by assistant coaches Katelin Batten and Jesse Tupac, along with Eduardo Fiallos moving into the role of Director of Volleyball Operations. The team recently returned from its annual trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., prepping for the 2016 season.
"The U.S. Olympic Training Center has a special place in my heart after living there for six years with the U.S. National Team, and it is now becoming a staple in our DU preseason training," said Hogan. "The OTC provides a very special energy, a secluded focus, and an optimized training environment. This year, living and training there during the Rio 2016 Olympics was especially inspiring for our players, being surrounded by Olympians and Olympic hopefuls and uniting around Team USA on the training ground of so many champions."
The Pioneers will open the season against top-25 powerhouse Michigan State in the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, Calif. Their first home match is scheduled for Sept. 2 as DU will host its annual Pioneer Classic starting with a TV contest against Loyola Marymount, a 2015 Sweet Sixteen qualifier. Summit League play is set to open on Sept. 24, where Denver will pay a visit to Omaha, Neb., for a rematch of the 2015 Summit League title game against the Mavericks.
"Every team we play against this year will bring their best game every time we compete against them, and we're working hard each and every day to rise to the challenge," Hogan said. ""We can't wait to see what we're capable of in 2016."
Tickets are already on sale and can be found here.
Season ticket holders interested in receiving a season parking pass in Lot C (map) can do so by making a minimum $110 tax deductible donation to the Pioneer Movement Annual Fund in support of the Volleyball team. Please contact the ticket office at (303) 871-4625 to make your donation.
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