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Perennial contender vies for volleyball title

Healea departs Lehigh as the team’s all-time leader in kills and attack attempts; however, that mark is already in jeopardy as senior Jeannette Singleton enters her final season with 981 kills, just 472 kills behind Healea. Joining Singleton will be fellow seniors Jill Kober and Katie Dukatz, junior Jill Racketa, sophomores Dominique Barnes, Morgan Volkart, and Rebecca Gawronski, along with freshmen Nikole Tingos, Allison Jack, and Michelle Schwendenmann.

Singleton and Dukatz should be a formidable duo this season as the two combined for 697 kills last year as well as 175 blocks. Kober returns at the team’s libero, a position that allowed her to showcase her defensive ability by notching a team high 483 digs, a total that was good enough for second all-time on Lehigh’s single season list.

Coach Nicholas will also look for Morgan Volkart and Rebecca Gawronski to join Singleton and Dukatz as players who have the ability to stuff would-be attackers. Volkart was named the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Week on three occasions. The sophomore outside hitter posted a team high 131 blocks, including 118 block-assists. Those marks already rank her within the top 20 at Lehigh in both single season and career blocking categories. Gawronski earned more playing time as she matured on the court. She managed 59 kills in 66 games, while stuffing 67 attacks. Jill Racketa is a lefty, that at times played the right side, making her play unorthodox and hard to handle, while Dominique Barnes is a good defensive player and ball handler who is looking to contribute as an outside hitter along with Racketa.

Incoming freshmen Allison Jack will be looked at to handle the team’s setting duties. The position was left wide open as Lisa Furusawa and Erin Breithaupt elected not to return this season. Jack played her high school ball at Vacaville High School and also was a member of the Delta Valley Volleyball Club. During her senior year, Jack’s team finished 30-6 and won the San-Joaquin Sectional Title. Her squad also was ranked within in the top 50 of the California volleyball rankings. She was a first team All League, All City Sacramento Area, and averaged more than 10 assists and three digs per game.

Providing additional support for the team will be Nikole Tingos and Michelle Schwendenmann. Schwendenmann will provide additional support to Dukatz and Gawronski at the middle-blocker position. She is capable of being a strong front row player, possessing quick feet, and strong jumping ability.

Tingos will join Barnes and Racketa to compete for the outside hitter-spot vacated by Healea’s graduation. Their strengths are defense and ball control. They also have the ability to play the libero position in the event that Kober is called upon to step into the setter role.

"All three freshmen are capable of making an immediate impact," said head coach Patrick Nicholas. "They are very athletic and extremely talented. Nikole (Tingos) and Allison (Jack) both participated in our camps last summer and are familiar with the team. Michelle (Schwendenmann) is much like Rochelle Healea in that she is a very physical athlete. I expect big things not only from them, but from my returning players. We should be strong from top to bottom and we hope to put forth another good showing in the Patriot League."

Lehigh looks to topple American’s strong hold atop a very competitive Patriot League field this season. The Mountain Hawks took a step in the right direction last year, by taking their first ever game from the Eagles in the Patriot League Tournament finals. Lehigh is slated to play in three tournaments this season, which will provide stiff competition to ready themselves for league play.

"The Patriot League has become very competitive top to bottom in the last four years since we have gone to a double round-robin format," noted coach Nicholas. "There are no easy matches in the league."

Posted on Thursday, August 07, 2003

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