Volleyball Opens 2009 Season with Duquesne/Robert Morris Tournament

Aug. 27, 2009

Baltimore - This year's Loyola volleyball team will have a new look to it. Half-new to be exact, as a crop of six freshmen will make their Greyhound debuts this weekend when the 2009 season gets underway in the Duquesne/Robert Morris Tournament. Loyola will open the season Friday in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris.

"They're excited to compete," said head coach Scott Pennewill. "They're excited to go and see how good they really are. They're ready."

In his second year as head coach, Scott Pennewill is putting his stamp on the program by rolling out a starting lineup that could include up to five freshmen. Injuries to seniors have limited their roles and will force them to play off the bench for the first few matches. It will also force the freshmen to grow up quickly and play some big roles.

Aubrey Kirven (Hartville, Ohio/Lake) will take over as the Greyhounds primary setter. Should Kirven succumb to freshman growing pains, Pennewill is relying on senior setter Kristen Muscarella's veteran experience and captain leadership off the bench.

"Like every freshman (Kirven) may get to the point where she's over-stimulated and in over her head," Pennewill said. "Kristen has got to be ready to come on and use her leadership and experience to keep the team moving forward."

Kirven has impressed Pennewill with her consistency in running the offense. So far in preseason, her tempo and accuracy are her strong points. A two-sport athlete in high school, Kirven is athletic and offers a surprisingly good blocking ability.

"Aubrey can block. Aubrey gets up there," Pennewill said. "For a 5-7 kid, she's going to slow a couple balls for us."

The extra help provided by Kirven at the net is essential right now, with senior Karlee Woodward injured. Woodward will see a few rotations but the 6-foot-2 blocker's height will be missed.

"It's frustrating because you need that experience on the floor," Pennewill said. "We're a very short team now. We're going to have to do some pretty smart things with the block."

To make up for the lack of height at the net, the Greyhounds defense has been bulked up. The versatility of freshmen Annie Manes (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y./Croton Harmon), Taylor Koncelik (Batavia, Ohio/Batavia) and Katie Dircks (Stony Brook, N.Y./Ward Melville) will provide coverage in the front and back.

"It's just a matter of covering a little more floor with the defense there," Pennewill said. "That's been a pretty strong point most of preseason. Our defense is looking really good."

The backbone of the team will be the two juniors, outside hitter Nina Camaioni and libero Brittany Born. Both will resume their starting roles after strong freshman and sophomore campaigns.

"That's the strength of our team," Pennewill said. "They're healthy, they're strong (and) they're skilled."

In 2008, Camaioni played in all 123 sets and led the Greyhounds in kills and kills per set with 307 (2.5 per set). A versatile player, Camaioni had a string of five straight double-double games last season and will be playing all over the court again this season, including in the back row with Born.

Born, the Greyounds' dig leader for two years running returns as the primary libero.

"Our primary passers, Britt and Nina, they pass can pass everything," Pennewill said. "Britt will be on the floor all the time."

Loyola's first matches of the season will put the Greyhounds up against Robert Morris and Bowling Green Friday. On Saturday, they will face Duquesne and Radford.