Lehigh volleyball prepares for 2014 season, plays in invitationals

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After a successful 20-9 season last year, the Lehigh women’s volleyball team is looking to improve on that mark in 2014.

“For us, we want to do more than appear in the Patriot League semifinal,” said junior defensive specialist and setter Katie Troyan. “We want to at least make the final.”

The 2014 team has already had an opportunity to build on last season, as it appeared in the Buffalo Invitational and the Patriot Invitational. In Buffalo, the team played four matches, winning two and losing two. The Hawks were able to defeat the University at Buffalo and Canisius College, but lost to Siena College and the University of Mississippi.

“We finished as the runner-up to an SEC team in Ole Miss, so that is a confidence booster,” said senior outside hitter Kaylynn Genemaras. “Throughout the tournament, it felt like we got increasingly comfortable playing with each other, which was essential to our successes and bodes well for the future as well.”

According to Lehigh Sports, Genemaras finished second on the team in kills with 247 in 2013. A major contributor since her first season as a Mountain Hawk, Genemaras will undoubtedly be one of the leaders of this year’s team.

“I especially like the leadership role that comes with being a senior,” Genemaras said. “I’ve been here awhile, so I know what to expect. Nerves don’t really play a factor anymore.”

When the team traveled to Fairfax, Va., for the Patriot Invitational, it got off to a strong start by defeating the host school George Mason University. However, things did not go as planned over the final three games when the team fell to the University of Maryland, the College ofWilliam and Mary, and East Tennessee State University.

Last season, the Mountain Hawks lost to eventual Patriot League champion American University in the semifinal. Although that loss was tough, the team was able to end on a high note by winning seven of their last nine matches.

“We hope to use last year’s momentum to our advantage this season,” Troyan said. “We lost four seniors, but we have done a good job filling some of those roles so far.”

With injuries to upperclassmen Ana Vrhel and Leah Turner, first-year players Whitney Krantz and Kelly Bennett may have to fill their roles.

“Whitney and Kelly both contributed well in our first tournament, and I’m excited to see what else they have to offer,” said senior outside hitter Jade Van Streepen.

Van Streepen is looking to end her Lehigh career on another high note. An Austin, Texas native, she led the Mountain Hawks in kills last season with 291. She was also named second team all Patriot League.

Van Streepen believes that the team staying healthy and maintaining an aggressive mindset will both be keys to this season.

“We already have a couple of injuries to upperclassmen, so it is clear early on that staying healthy is important,” she said. Although last year was mostly successful, Van Streepen insists that the team will be looking to improve.

“We have to play to win, not just to play,” she said. “Everyone is on the same page when it comes to that.”

Van Streepen will also be in the middle of an interesting team dynamic this season as well, as her younger sister Natasha Van Streepen joins the team as a first-year.

“This is the first time that I have played on the same team as my sister so it is a totally new situation for both of us,” the eldest sister said. “It will be awesome to have her here at Lehigh, though. It’s like having a little piece of home, even though we are so far away.”

Troyan, a local product out of Allentown Central Catholic, named junior setter Amy Matula as one of the key players for the Mountain Hawks this season.

“We will definitely rely on Amy this season,” Troyan said. “She runs our offense and has done a good job taking control of that in the past.”  Matula led the Mountain Hawks in assists last season with 979. That mark ranked tenth in Lehigh’s record books for assists in a season.

Looking ahead, the Mountain Hawks get set to play in Grace Hall starting on Sept. 12, when they take on Saint Peter’s University as part of the Crosstown Invitational. Before that event begins, the Hawks play in one more away match at Villanova University on Sept. 7.

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