by Tom Utescher

Last season the Chestnut Hill College volleyball team quadrupled its win total in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference from 2010, and more than doubled the total number of victories it claimed, as well. Finishing up the 2011 schedule at 8-11 in the CACC and 13-19 against all opponents, the Griffins are now looking to rise above the .500 mark this year.

Chestnut Hill College’s 2012 volleyball team captains, Cassie Benson (left) and Alex DePalma. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Helping to lead the charge will be junior outside hitter Alex DePalma, who became an All-CACC Second Team selection after finishing second in the conference in kills (383) and third in points (487).

She is a team co-captain this year along with senior middle Cassie Benson, but unfortunately, Benson has suffered a torn rotator-cuff and it is not certain when she can return. The 6’1” senior had injury issues last season, as well, but still saw enough action to register a team-leading 70 blocks.

The Griffins lost reliable right side Katherine Tohanczyn to graduation, and some additional vacancies opened up for other reasons. Setter Liz DiGregorio, who would be a senior, and Sydney Chukuntarod, a sophomore, are not on the roster this fall. Chukuntarod logged 845 assists in 2011 and was named the CACC Rookie of the Year.

Fortunately, fifth-year coach Kim Sweeney brought in half-a-dozen freshmen, along with a sophomore transfer student, to give the program a personnel boost. Three of the newbies are back row players, and will help the Griffins plug some of the gaps they need to fill.

In addition to DePalma, Chestnut Hill also has some seasoned offensive players in sophomore Katie Schock (220 kills in 2011) and junior Mary Markowski (178 kills). Other returning veterans include senior setter Courtney Gallo, a pair of 5’10” juniors, Kailey Arlen and Alison Eberly, and their classmate Sarah Mattaliano, a defensive specialist.

“Some of our goals for this season are to improve our serve/receive, and to get better with our offensive termination,” Feeny said. “We just want to more efficient in general.”

The Griffins will quickly find out what they’re made of, opening the season with a four-game road trip to Florida. They’ll be participating in the Rollins College Invitational, which has attracted a number of teams that are regionally and nationally ranked in NCAA Division II.