The 2001 East Tennessee State volleyball team will be led by Deane Webb, the sixth head coach in the 27 years of the program.
Webb comes to Johnson City from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind. While at Indiana Wesleyan, Webb led his teams to a 134-51 overall record and was a two-time conference coach of the year honoree.
Webb took over a team that finished 7-31 in 1996 and by the time he was done, set school records for wins (43) and winning percentage (43-4/.915) during the 2000 season.
Webb now takes over the helm of a Buccaneer volleyball team that lost three seniors from a team that finished 16-13, 12-8 in the 2000 Southern Conference standings (sixth).
Those seniors, Jena Policastro, Courtney Sussillo and Kellie Wallace missed just one combined match last season (83 of a possible 84).
Losing three seniors may take a toll on some teams; the Bucs will have no shortage of leadership in the 2001 campaign.
Leading ETSU this season will be seniors Carey Cavanaugh, Amber Ciskowski and Anastasia Dishong.
Cavanaugh has been the quarterback of the ETSU offense since her transfer from Ohio State in 1999. In 2000, she was an All-Southern Conference performer for the second consecutive season and became just the fourth player in ETSU history to record 2,000 career assists.
Ciskowski led the Bucs with 311 kills (2.85 pg) during the 2000 season. She registered double-digit kills in 17 of 29 matches last year. Together, Cavanaugh and Ciskowski make up one of the most feared combinations in the Southern Conference.
Dishong was sidelined during the 2000 season due to an injury.
Aside from the three seniors, the 2001 Buccaneer squad will be stocked with young talent. The rest of the ETSU roster will consist of five sophomores and three freshmen.
But these are not your typical sophomores. Many played key roles as freshmen in ETSU's success in the 2000 season.
Webb will count on his established players as well as his young talent to make a run at the 2001 Southern Conference Championship.
ON THE OUTSIDE
The outside for the Buccaneers will be called upon to provide firepower and stability during the 2001 season. The ETSU outside hitters are one of the most experienced groups on the squad.
The Buccaneers will field one of the top groups of outside hitters in the Southern Conference, Ciskowski (Phoenix, Ariz.), Rachel Shifflet (Axton, Va.) and Kate Steidle (Waynesboro, Va.).
Ciskowski has been one of the most consistent performers on the team ever since her arrival in Johnson City. She has been an offensive and defensive leader during her ETSU career, averaging over 300 kills and 300 digs in her last two seasons.
"Amber is a very hard worker," said Coach Webb. " We can count on her experience, stability and discipline to lead us on the court."
Shifflet stepped in during the 2000 season and established herself as one of the best young players in the Southern Conference. She led the Buccaneers in kills per game (2.88) and had a career-high with 20 kills in a loss to Virginia Tech on Nov. 1.
"We can count on Rachel to bring power to our offense," said Coach Webb. "She hits a heavy ball and will be counted on heavily in side-out situations."
Steidle played a important role for the ETSU last season, putting together a streak of four consecutive matches where she registered double-digit kills. The Bucs were 3-1 in that stretch. All told, Kate had six matches with double-digit kills.
"Kate is a fast, athletic, dynamic player," said Coach Webb. "With more experience, she can develop into a excellent player."
Fellow sophomore Gretchen Rupert (Staunton, Va.) also came in as freshmen last season and contributed to the Bucs' success.
Rupert saw action in four matches last season, notching a career-high with five kills and seven digs on Nov. 3 against The Citadel.
"Gretchen will be playing on the left side this season," said Coach Webb. "She will add a lot of extra punch to the left side of the attack."
Freshman Sara Scandiffio (Purcellville, Va.) will also play on the outside for ETSU this season.
"Sara should provide a very good block to our right side," said Coach Webb. "As her offense develops, she could become a force for us on the right side." Scandiffio will also see time in the middle during the 2001 season.
IN THE MIDDLE
In the middle, the Buccaneers will be a young but talented group coming into the 2001 campaign.
The only player on the Buccaneer roster that has seen significant time as a middle hitter at ETSU is sophomore Lissa Allen (Palm Bay, Fla.).
Allen gained valuable experience last season, playing in 26 of 28 matches last season. Allen registered double-digit kills in four matches in 2000, three of which went on to become Buccaneer victories.
"Lissa is a good all-around player that is able to hit a variety of sets," said Coach Webb. "She is already a good player. With more time and conditioning, she could become an excellent player." Allen will see time at front and back row positions during the 2001 season.
Joining Allen in the middle will be freshman Natalie Atzinger (Louisville, Ky.).
Atzinger played for the KIVA Volleyball Club, a high-level volleyball team in Louisville, Ky. She is a hard-working and disciplined player.
"Natalie makes good decisions on the court," said Webb. "We will count on her to aid in running the offense."
The setters on the 2001 Buccaneer squad will be the strength of the team. The Bucs have one of the best setters in the Southern Conference in the two-time All-SoCon honoree Cavanaugh (Munroe Falls, Ohio). The Bucs may also have another star setter waiting in the wings with sophomore Jessica Miller (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Cavanaugh, a very good athlete, is the confident floor general of the Buccaneers. Cavanaugh's inspired offensive and defensive play always seems to give the Bucs a boost in pressure situations, whether ETSU is trying to close out a match or come back from a deficit.
"We will count on Carey's leadership and ability," said Webb. "Her individual leadership and intensity will contribute greatly to the team's success."
The Buccaneers came to a crossroads in the 2000 season when Cavanaugh missed four matches in a crucial portion of the season. Losing their floor leader might be a problem for most teams, but ETSU turned to the then-freshman Miller, who did an admirable job. She stepped in as starting setter, leading the Bucs to a 2-2 record in four matches.
In Cavanaugh's absence, Miller led the team with 7.31 assists per game and .46 aces per game. For the season, Miller finished fourth in the SoCon with .49 service aces per game. Miller will see most of her time this season as a defensive specialist, but can play setter if necessary.
"Jessica is a steady back-row presence," said Webb. "She is a hard worker that can step in and set as needed."
Possibly one of the most versatile players on the Buccaneer roster is senior Anastasia Dishong (Prescott, Ariz.).
Dishong was moved from setter to defensive specialist prior to her junior campaign, but suffered an injury and missed the entire 2000 season.
"Her back-row leadership will show through her inspired play and defense," said Webb.
Another exciting Buccaneer newcomer is freshman defensive specialist Karen Freeburg (Newcastle, Ind.).
Freeburg is a very good hitter and receiver that played outside hitter in high school, but will see action at both left side hitter and defensive specialist at ETSU.
Freeburg played for the same Munciana Volleyball Club that Webb coached in Indiana.
"Karen has a good jump serve and great ball control," said Webb. "She will bring stability to the team and will contribute right away."
The Bucs will open up the 2001 season on Friday, Aug. 31 at the Winthrop University tournament in Rock Hill, S.C. Participating teams will be Winthrop, Georgia State and Georgia Southern.
ETSU will open up its Southern Conference schedule on Sept. 4 with a trip to Western Carolina.
The Bucs gained valuable experience during the 2000 season as many freshmen got the opportunity to step up and contribute. That playing time should translate into good team chemistry for the 2001 campaign. "Team chemistry is a major part of success," said Webb.