Volleyball back with a vengeance

Noah Cloonan

After not making the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, the Ashland University volleyball team is returning with a vengeance.

“It was a disappointment to not make the NCAA tournament, we were right there on the bubble, so I think that has really provided a lot of motivation coming into this fall,” said head coach Cass Dixon.

After going 19-11 last season, the squad was picked second in the South in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Poll, lagging behind only the Findlay Oilers.

Head Coach Cass Dixon is bringing three new faces to the team including the younger sister of All-American senior outside hitter Alli Cudworth.

“Sophie [Cudworth] is a really different situation than I’ve ever been in before, I’ve never had sisters that were different ages,” said Dixon. “It will be interesting to see how that dynamic developed throughout the season.

Sophie is a middle blocker and right side hitter and is following in her sister’s footsteps having graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School.

As a senior she tallied 391 kills, 64 blocks, 23 aces and 114 digs. She currently holds the school record for her career total of 964 kills.

Middle blocker Paige Leitz is coming to AU from Monroeville High School where she led the team to a regional championship, three district championships and a Firelands Conference Title.

Shelby Woycik is an outside hitter joining the Eagles from Lapeer High School in Michigan. She was injured most of her senior year, but still managed to record 114 kills in 63 sets.

The program also added a new assistant coach to their staff, Arian Martin. Martin graduated from AU in 2012 after being a four-year starter and a three-year captain for the Eagles

The Eagles are returning three seniors this fall. Along with Alli, is outside hitter Casey Clark.

Both have been starting outside hitters since their freshmen years at AU.

Mallory Slyder, who transferred from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne in 2015, closes out the senior class as a fifth year setter for the Eagles.

“We are really excited about the season we feel like we have really good team chemistry right now and hopefully that will carry over onto the volleyball court,” said Dixon.

Based on last years season, the team is determined to look at every opponent as if they are the best, and not look past any team, not matter who they are.

“Our expectations are to get better every day and win the matches we need to win and not take anyone for granted,” said Dixon. We need to keep our sights on what is right in front of us and not what is way ahead in the distance.”

The Eagles will start off their season at the Angelina Miele Memorial Tournament in Lock Haven, Pa. on Sept. 1 before hosting their home opener on Sept. 13 versus Malone.