Looking to build off the success from a 2018 season that saw the program return to the North Coast Athletic Conference Championship Tournament Final for the first time since 2014, the Hiram College volleyball team will rely on a plethora of veteran leadership heading into the 2019 campaign.
First-year head coach Brittany Dye takes the reins of the program after serving as assistant coach for the team that posted a 23-5 record a season ago. Dye is no stranger to the Terrier volleyball team, having played herself for the Terriers during the team's last NCAA Tournament run.
"Hiram just feels like home to me," said Dye, who assisted head coach Kyle Mars with both the women's and men's programs in 2018. "I am looking forward to taking the groundwork that has already be laid for this program and continuing to strive toward our ultimate goal of a NCAC title."
Dye will have no shortage of talent to work with this year as eight letterwinners, including five starters return to the fray.
Cole earned Second-Team All-NCAC honors a season ago and led the Terriers' offensive attack with 374 kills. She posted double-digit kills in 22 of 27 matches a season ago, while accruing 417 points (also a program high).
Martin garnered her first All-NCAC selection last season as well, spearheading Hiram's defensive efforts. As a sophomore, she led the team in total blocks, while ranking fourth in the NCAC in solo blocks. She also added career highs in kills (132) and hitting percentage (.234).
Franks and Walker both earned all-conference nods as freshmen during the 2017 season and will look to get that form back in the 2019 season. Walker, who moved from a setter in '17 to the outside in 2018, flourished with 292 kills while adding 322 digs. Her 13 double-doubles on the season ranked second on the team, while her 33 aces landed her in the top 10 in the conference.
Franks transitioned from the outside to the middle in 2018 and still posted 190 kills while hitting a career-best .201. She also ranked second on the roster in total blocks with 37.
By position, the Terriers have depth and experience at nearly every spot on the floor. Cole and Walker will look to man the outside alongside senior Madison Fortune, who had her best year in 2018. As a junior Fortune posted career numbers in kills (207) and kills per set (2.56) in 28 matches. Transfer Zia Williams will also vie for time on the outside/right side.
The middle of the floor will once again be patrolled by Franks and Martin who combined for 97 blocks as a duo in 2018. Joining the two will be incoming players Lyndsey Johns and Riley Ellliott. Johns, a local product from Garfield High School, was a two-time All-District selection, while Elliot was an All-Conference for West Geauga High School.
The depth on the back row could be the biggest strength for the Terriers, as Hiram returns four players, including senior Amber Ricketts, juniors Lindsey Stahl and Nikkia Schady and sophomore Gabrielle Baker. Stahl made the biggest impact for the Terriers last season, ranking in the top ten in the NCAC in total digs with 360. Ricketts set career highs in 2018 with 142 and 24 aces, while Schady also notched a career-best with 97 digs.
Along with the returning depth, first-year player Mackenzie Brannon will provide extra support for the back line. Brannon was a four-year all-league player for Waterloo High School, and earned First-Team All-District for the Vikings in 2019.
The lone spot in which the Terriers will need to find a replacement is for First-Team All-NCAC setter Holly Hoffman. A trio of freshman will look to fill that role, including Madison Burns (Norton High School), Emily Chrustic (Nordonia High School) and Melina Lee (Quartz Hill High School/California). All three earned All-League honors during their high school careers.
The transition to a new setter has a chance to be smoother this season as Hoffman has stayed on with the team and will serve as the graduate assistant coach for the Terriers in 2019.
"Having Holly remain on this year has really helped bridge the gap between the new setters and the hitters on the floor," commented Dye on her new assistant. "She has been able to instruct the setters on technique, while preparing them to work with each of the individual hitters."
Hiram will open the season on August 30 as they travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Pam Briggs Capital Classic. The team will open their home schedule on Tuesday, September 3 against Mount Union, and will begin NCAC play with reigning NCAC champion, Wittenberg, on September 27.