By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
Earlier this month, KIAC teams were ranked in preseason polls by their respective sports’ coaches. For three of the Eagles women’s teams, expectations are high after the preseason polls have them at the top of the pack in the conference.
After finishing first in the KIAC last year with a 9-1 record, the Eagles’ volleyball team was placed second in the preseason poll behind Point Park University. The Eagles ended the 2014-15 season with a 37-9 record and a loss in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Indiana University Southeast.
Since then, six seniors have graduated which leaves the team without several of its key players on both offense and defense. Alumna Sarah Sterling and Allison Rehner led the team in kills last year, a mantle that could possibly be taken up by sophomores Maddie Lewis and Kayla Moran. Both showed that they were capable of producing offense last year. Along with junior Hillarie Dyck, the three combined for over 600 kills last season.
On the defensive side, senior Kellianne Crouse will need to step into the role of defensive specialist left by Maddie Lewis. Lewis led the team defensively last year recording 885 digs over the course of the season.
Women’s Soccer (above)
While the revolving door of college athletics does mean that the Eagles will be without forward Meredith Ury this year, the returning players paint a positive picture for the team voted as #2 in the preseason poll. Coming off an 11-8 season that saw them lose in the finals of the KIAC tournament, AU will be led from the front by last year’s leading scorer Teryn Wright who scored 13 goals in 19 games. Now a senior, Wright will have even more responsibility to produce on offense without Ury there to contribute goals. Help could come from sophomore Mia Wiersema, who had 10 goals in 15 games last year, or from this year’s incoming class. Head coach Brooke Lincoln brought in 11 freshmen, four of which were listed as forwards.
On defense, junior Rachel Bertrand will be an important piece in the back four after starting all 19 games for the eagles last year. In goal, sophomore Brooke Perkins returns for her second year and will compete with sophomore Morehead State-transfer Rebekah Hulsing.
Women’s Cross Country
It will be a hard climb back to the top for the reigning KIAC champions. Coming into the season ranked #1 after receiving six first place votes, head coach Randy Crist is cautiously optimistic. “We don’t have much depth, but if everyone can avoid injury I think we can challenge for a trophy at the conference championship meet again this year.”
Depth is certainly an issue, with seven runners not returning either due to graduation or other reasons. On top of that, junior Kayla Sheeran will be coming back this fall from off-season ankle surgery. With all that in mind, it made the recruiting process for this year even more important. “I want people who desire to be a part of the entire Asbury experience. If athletes are sold on [that experience]…the running will come together,” Crist said.
Among those incoming freshman, Crist chose to praise Allison Lyon in particular. “She’s been an early leader. She ran more miles this summer than anybody else on the women’s or men’s team.”