PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Providence College volleyball team will open its 2014 season at the Kristin Dickman Invitational, hosted by Navy, on Friday, Aug. 29 and Saturday, Aug. 30. Friday's opening match against Navy is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. Saturday's matches against The Citadel and Southern Utah will begin at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., respectively.
Last season, sophomores Michelle Cruz (Midland Park, N.J.) and Kayla Fitzgerald (Redlands, Calif) were named to the America East All-Rookie team. Cruz, who earned two America East Rookie of the Week awards (Sept. 3 and Sept. 9), led the Friars in digs with 520 on the year (4.73 per set) and 44 service aces (.40 per set). The defensive specialist finished the season ranked in the top-ten in conference statistics, finishing second in digs and third in service aces. Fitzgerald also earned two Rookie of the Week awards (Sept. 30 and Oct. 7). The outside hitter led the Friars in kills and finished the year ranked eighth in the conference with 290 on the season (2.71 per set). Sophomore Jordan Wiesler (Coconut Creek, Fla.) also earned weekly honors and was named America East Setter of the Week (Sept. 9).
Providence had success last season in tournaments with three Friars named to All-Tournament Teams. Junior Annie Russian (Round Rock, Texas.) was named to the DePaul Invitational All-Tournament Team (8/30-8/31) to open the season and Cruz was named to the Stetson Westin Classic All-Tournament team (9/6-9/7). In the final tournament of the season, Wiesler was named to the Dartmouth Invitational All-Tournament Team (9/13-9/14).
This season will be Providence's first back in the BIG EAST since playing the past four seasons in the America East (2010-2013). The Friars competed as a member of the BIG EAST from 1977 to 2001. From 1977 to 2001 while playing in the BIG EAST, the Friars had 16 winning seasons and captured three BIG EAST championships in a five-year span (1983-1987). During that five-year stretch, Providence advanced to the BIG EAST Championship match each season.
SCOUTING NAVY: The Midshipmen finished the 2013 season with a 13-16 record. Junior middle-hitter Katie Sylakowski is the leading returner for Navy, compiling 202 kills (2.13 per set), a team-best .296 hitting percentage and 75 total blocks (0.79 per set) last season. Senior middle-hitter Alex Cassel also recorded 0.79 blocks per set (76 total) last year.
SCOUTING THE CITADEL: The Bulldogs finished the 2013 campaign with a 5-28 record overall. The Citadel has 11 returning letterwinners while losing two (five starters returning, two lost). Seniors Amanda Rudnick, Ise d'Angelo, Lauren Hurt and Mallory Moore lead The Citadel for the 2014 season. D'Angelo, an outside hitter, ranks 13th on The Citadel's all-time kills with 491. Hurt, the team's middle blocker, ranks in the top five in blocks per set (tied-2nd; 0.96), total blocks (3rd; 266), solo blocks (4th; 79) and assisted blocks (4th; 187). Moore, a right-side hitter, recorded 92 kills (1.18 per set), 45 digs (0.58 per set) and 29 assisted blocks (0.37 per set) last season. Rudnik, an outside hitter, enters the year ranked in the top-15 in digs (13th; 568) and assisted blocks (14th; 82). Junior middle-hitter Bailey Kernodle is the top offensive returner with 167 kills (1.70 kills per set) last season. She also compiled 143 digs, joining d'Angelo as one of only two Bulldogs to close out the season with at least 100 kills and 100 digs. Another junior, setter Rachel Keefer, dished out 758 assists in 2013.
SCOUTING SOUTHERN UTAH: The Thunderbirds completed the 2013 season with a 4-27 record. After injuries last season, Southern Utah returns seven players while adding six incoming freshmen and two transfers. Sophomores Ann Clapier, Joanna Christenson and Sariah Pelaez lead the team statistically. Opposite hitter, Clappier, is the team's offensive leader tallying 200 kills (1.96 per set) last season. She also tallied 104 blocks (1.02 per set). Setter, Joanna Christenson, led the team in 2013 with 969 assists (8.58 per set). Defensive specialist, Pelaez, had a team-best 416 digs last year (3.68 per set).
The Kristen Dickman Invitational is in memory of Kristin Dickman, a former Navy volleyball player who was part of the team during her freshman year (2007-08). That spring, she went back to her dorm room to take a nap during finals week and never woke up, passing away unexpectedly from a previously undetected heart ailment. The tournament is in its fifth year in her memory.
Providence's Friday match against Navy will be streamed live. Click here to for the in-game feed.
Following the tournament the Friars travel to nearby Smithfield, R.I. on Tuesday, Sept. 2 to square off against in-state rival Bryant at 7:00 p.m.
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