Volleyball coach Bakeer Ganes will enter his second season at the helm with plenty of challenges. Ganes and the team will look to improve upon last season’s 8-20 record with a roster that includes only two returning seniors.
In addition to that, half of the roster will be playing their first match as Owls. But Ganes said there will be no negative effects on team chemistry with the addition of the four true freshmen.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Ganes said. “But the kids we already had have strong character and the new kids have fit into our philosophy really well.”
Ganes will welcome freshmen Alyssa Drachslin, Sandra Sydlik, Alicia Wennberg and Regina Trabosh, juniors Annemarie Boehm and Paula Renteria and senior Jingyu Zhang. The class has international experience as four of the student-athletes have experience playing in Germany, China and Norway.
“We’ve been recruiting [Boehm] for almost a year and a half and I recruited [Renteria] to West Virginia while I was there and recently she reached out to us,” Ganes said.
Drachslin is a true freshman defensive specialist out of Southern California. She will play defense and libero for Temple after being the starting libero for her high school for three years, helping lead them to consecutive league titles. She was named to the first team all-league in both of her last two years at Riverside Poly High School.
“I really respect the coaches and the girls have been really supportive,” Drachslin said. “The returners are so welcoming. I’ve only been at practice a week and I already don’t feel new anymore.”
Renteria will have two years of eligibility left after two years at West Virginia Wesleyan. Her value comes in her versatility as she can play both defense and outside hitter. She led WV Wesleyan in kills as a sophomore and was named second team all-conference.
Sydlik is a 5-foot-10-inch setter from Berlin. She played in the highest amateur league in Germany and had a successful career with the Junior National Team.
Wennberg is another true freshman with an extensive international résumé. She’s an outside hitter from Stavanger, Norway and she started every game as a junior and senior for her high school. Wennberg brings valuable experience to North Philly after having a standout career with the U19 National Team, the National All-Star Team and the Junior National Team.
Trabosh is a libero from Trooper, Pa. She was named to the first team all-league three times and first team all-area twice.
Boehm is a middle blocker transferring after spending two years at a Catholic university in Germany and time on the Junior National Team at the German Championships in 2005 and 2006.
“We have two freshmen defenders who played great in the preseason and [Boehm] is starting to really mesh with the team,” senior outside hitter Elyse Burkert said.
Zhang, a Tianjin, China native, is a 5-foot-10-inch outside hitter. She was part of the roster last season but watched from the sidelines so she’s still familiar with the team. She played the 2008 and 2009 seasons at Saint Petersburg College in Florida. While there, she was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association All-American First Team. Zhang is listed as one of two seniors on the roster.
“Zhang is going to be a big part of the team and we’re really excited she can play this year,” Burkert said.
The only other senior on the roster besides Zhang is Chelsea Tupuola, a defender and liberio, who Ganes named as one of the team leaders.
“In general, we have a real young team,” Ganes said. “We wanted to bring in more maturity and the kids bought into it. We hope the new players can contribute right away.”
Because the team was young last year as well, there were freshmen and sophomores who were able to gain valuable playing time and experience, Burkert said.
“The younger players look up at the older players,” Burkert said. “We’ve set a standard of being positive and working hard this year.”
The team went 2-2 at the University of South Carolina Invitational last weekend, Aug. 24-26.
Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @b_stoneburg.