Franklin & Marshall's volleyball team embarks on a quest to live up to their preseason billing as the Centennial's top team when the Diplomats open the season this weekend at Juniata. F&M will face its first test against a Centennial opponent in Dickinson during a non-league match at the Eagle's nest.
Morano was named All-Centennial for the second time in her career, picking up First Team honors in 2010. She finished the season first in the conference in hitting percentage, recording kills on .396 of her 548 attacks. That mark ranks tenth in NCAA Division III. She posted 274 kills on the season, rolling up 3.01 per game. Morano was second in the Centennial Conference in blocks per game, rejecting .86 kills per set. She posted 78 blocks on the season, including 26 solo blocks.
The Diplomats are looking to build upon the momentum provided by a successful 2009 campaign. F&M closed the season with a record of 23-6, the most victorious season under head coach, Mary Kate Boland. The Diplomats posted 19 sweeps on the year, at one point reeling off 27-consecutive games.
Although the preseason rankings are in favor of the Diplomats, Boland will find her squad tested early.
"We were picked first in the preseason coach poll for the Centennial Conference, but we understand very well that this is just a poll," states Boland. "We have a much tougher schedule this season than we did last year and are opening up our season with matches against nationally ranked teams in two of our first three matches."
The junior class returns five talented players. Defensive specialists Stephanie Armstrong, Katy May, and Lis Power played in a combined total of 258 games last year. Hitters Mariah Eble and Jessica Poucel combined for a total of 177 kills.
Boland is thrilled with the depth of the sophomore class that includes Kerry Rom, Candice Tussing, Sydney Seydel, Elise Gilchrist, Caitlin Krutsick, Heather Letzkus, and Jian Lipowcan. Joining the Diplomats roster this year are freshmen Kelsey Beveridge, Danielle Roth, Gabrielle Connor, Ellana Benabou, Meghan Hubert, and Nicole Venezia.
Rom, Tussing, and Seydel are all returning starters from their first season of college volleyball. Rom was second on the team in kills per game with 2.65 per set. She was third on the team with 2.26 blocks per game. Tussing was third in kills (2.38/g). Seydel recorded 2.09 kills per game and was second on the team in solo blocks (15) and assisted blocks (37) .
The Diplomats have the right tools to go after their fifth Conference Championship.
"We will be the most experienced team in the conference, so we should fare much better than we did last year in high pressure matches," states Boland. "The girls know that there is a lot of expectation for us to do well this season, so I am looking forward to seeing how we handle that."