EUREKA -- The Eureka College volleyball team will open the 2018 season with a flurry, playing four times in less than 24 hours in the Dairy State as part of the Buc Blast Tournament hosted by Beloit in Beloit, Wis. The Red Devils will open versus Alma on Friday at 5 p.m., followed by a 9 p.m. bout with Olivet. Saturday includes a 1 p.m. start against host Beloit and a 3 p.m. tilt with Rockford.
Notebook: Eureka to Begin Season Friday in Wisconsin
Aug 30, 2018
GETTING TO KNOW THE RED DEVILS
The Red Devils began preseason workouts on Aug. 18 . EC returns five players that appeared in 22 or matches or more a year ago.
Eureka returns two of its top three hitters from 2017 – seniors and Lexi Dooley. Robinson is the active Eureka leader with 1,055 assists, 559 kills, 85 total blocks and 63 block assists. With 18 more assists and 144 more kills, she can become the first player in program history to reach EC's all-time top 10 lists in both categories. Dooley, a two-sport student-athlete that tied EC's single-game basketball rebounding record last winter, has 77 career volleyball appearances and is responsible for 609 points scored since her arrival 'Neath the Elms in 2015.
Senior McKenna Cleer is also back for the Red Devils after seizing the libero role in the second half of the 2017 season. She finished her junior campaign with 232 digs and recorded 10 digs or more in 13 of the season's final 15 matches, including a career-high 22 digs on two separate occasions.
A pair of sophomores return after playing critical roles as newcomers a year ago. Caitlin Miller was a force at the net, leading the SLIAC and ranking 74th nationally with 0.91 blocks per set. Her 84 total blocks were the most in a season by a Red Devil since 2002 and her nine block assists against Westminster on Sept. 30 were the most on record at EC.
Sara Worrell had a team-best 4.57 assists per set last season, an average that ranked eighth among SLIAC setters. She emerged in Eureka's historic five-set win over Spalding on Sept. 16, 2017 and was a mainstay in the rotation from that point forward, logging 10 assists or more in each of the season's final 19 matches.
Senior Haley Holzem, junior McKenzie Reiners and sophomores Annaliese Miller, Katlyn Arrenholz and Kary Langan round out Eureka's group of returnees. In all, 10 letterwinners return to join six newcomers on the roster in 2018.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Alma, based in Alma, Mich. and a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, went 8-16 overall and 5-11 in league action last season to finish seventh in the nine-team MIAA ... Like the Red Devils, the Scots will be opening their season when the ball goes up Friday in Wisconsin. This season, Alma was picked sixth in a preseason MIAA poll ... The Scots are coached by Alex Leja ... The 2012 Vanguard graduate will enter her third season on Friday and is the eighth head coach in program history ... Eureka has no record of meeting Alma in volleyball since 1997 and will be playing an MIAA opponent for the first time since dropping a four-set decision to Olivet on Oct. 1, 2016.
Olivet, which plays alongside Alma as members of the MIAA, is a year removed from a 7-22 season that included a 3-13 conference mark ... The Comets were picked ninth in the preseason MIAA poll ... Megan Merchant is the head coach at Olivet. Now in her seventh season, she is the winningest coach in program history ... OC topped the Red Devils in four sets two seasons ago in a neutral-site match in Chicago.
Host Beloit was 9-16 in 2017, including a 3-6 Midwest Conference mark. BC returns five starters from last season ... BC will host North Central (Minn.) and Olivet before taking on the Red Devils Saturday afternoon ... Dawn Redd, who was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection at Wisconsin, is in her 12th season at Beloit. She owns a 115-179 record ... Eureka and the Buccaneers will be meeting in volleyball for the first time since 2006 and the first time on record in Beloit ... BC won two prior matches over EC as part of a neutral-site tournament at Ripon during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
Rockford won just two matches last fall, part of a 2-27 campaign that included a winless 0-11 mark in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference ... The Regents were picked last in the 13-team NACC preseason poll for 2018 ... Jennifer Saylor, now in her second season, is the 15th head coach in program history ... Saylor owns previous head coaching experience at Lake Forest and Illinois College ... EC will be playing the Regents in volleyball for the first time since 2006 ... RU and Eureka previously competed as rivals in the now-defunct Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference ... The Red Devils won 11 of 14 matches versus Rockford from 1997 through 2006, including an active three-game win streak in the series.
PRESEASON SLIAC POLL
A league-wide poll conducted by St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference volleyball head coaches has selected Eureka to finish seventh in the conference in 2018, according to an announcement released by the conference office in mid-August. Westminster, which won the regular-season crown last season for the first time since before the turn of the century, was picked to repeat as SLIAC champions this fall.
The Blue Jays secured six of the possible 10 first-place votes. Longtime league powers Greenville and Webster were voted second and third, respectively, and each received two first-place votes. Principia slotted fourth, followed by Fontbonne in fifth to round out the top half of the poll. Spalding, Eureka, Iowa Wesleyan, MacMurray and Blackburn followed in places six through 10.