August 14, 2018
With Bluffton's string of four straight Heartland Conference tournament titles snapped in 2017, the Beaver volleyball team is hungry to return to their perch at the top of the HCAC. Bluffton fell to Hanover in the conference semi-finals a season ago after knocking the Panthers out of the tournament four straight years.
Veteran mentor Steve Yarnell is looking forward to his 14th season at the helm after 10 straight trips to the Heartland Conference tournament, including nine appearances in the semifinals and five titles in the span! Despite the loss of all-time digs leader Sydney Mohler (2,193), who was the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, and Becca Tourney, the cupboard is fully stocked for 2018.
A two-time First Team All-Heartland Conference selection and the 2015 HCAC Freshman of the Year, Erin Weisgarber (Bolivar/Tuscarawas Valley) handed out 1,021 assists, moving up to #3 on the all-time list with 3,392 for her career. She trails just Shauna Rowland (3,695) and Jayne Miller (4.275) heading into her senior campaign.
Bethany Martini had a breakout season for the Beavers in 2017, leading the Heartland Conference by a considerable margin with 463 kills and a 4.25 kills per set average. The two-time HCAC Player of the Week moved to the top of Bluffton's single-season kills per set list and she is now third all-time with 463 kills on the year. Her record-setting junior campaign also pushed her 2.96 kills per set up to second on Bluffton's career list. Martini has 1,000 career kills in her sights (756) despite just five spikes in 30 sets as a freshman.
Abby Rohrbach (New Knoxville), Courtney Zimpfer (Jackson Center) and Casey Clark (Lima/Central Catholic) have seen extensive court time in the back and they will vie for the libero opening with Mohler gone. Fellow senior Jessie Gibson (Warsaw/River View) and junior Carley Lester (Chesapeake) give the Beavers talented blockers up front, while sophomores Remi Bower (Deshler/Patrick Henry) and Sarah Heydinger (Tiro/Buckeye Central) gained valuable experience in starting roles last season.
The 6th annual Sommer Center Spiketacular is back on September 7-8 and it will once again feature heavyweights from the OAC, NCAC and HCAC. After a trip to Louisville for a weekend at Spalding on September 14-15, Bluffton caps off four weeks of tournaments in Pittsburgh at Carnegie-Mellon.
Coach Yarnell stated, "I believe we have a veteran group returning that will allow us to hit the ground running in the preseason, perhaps a bit ahead of a typical preseason. We have added depth at many positions through this year's recruiting class and believe that depth will foster a competitive environment in training sessions. The HCAC will be super competitive this year with many teams returning large portions of their lineups. Each match will be important as the teams jockey for a spot in the end of the year HCAC tournament." Non-conference matchups against IU-East, Ohio Northern and Wilmington dot the schedule and prepare the Beavers for their HCAC battles this season.
The Beavers have assembled another demanding schedule this year, but that has been the formula for success as the Beavers have won five HCAC Tournament titles in the past nine seasons! With the hunger at a fever pitch, he is excited to mold another top-notch recruiting class into a championship volleyball team. The 2018 season kicks off just down the road at the ONU Invitational on August 31 with Heartland Conference action opening on Saturday, Sept. 29 when the women welcome rival Hanover College. Come out and support the Beavers as they go for five in six!