Rivier women’s volleyball aiming high in 2016

NASHUA – It wasn’t long after his Rivier University women’s volleyball team was upset at the Muldoon Center by Johnson & Wales in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference finals that Raiders coach Craig Kolek pondered the future.

And it looked pretty good, despite the upcoming graduation loss of one of the program’s best players, Emily O’Reilly.

"She’s definitely a hard player to replace but I think we found somebody," Kolek said. "And the girls have been pretty focused since the end of last year. They worked hard in the off-season, got together a lot. It’s (the desire to win this year) is pretty strong."

So is the roster, with several back from a 28-7 team as they open up this weekend in the Big Apple at the New York University Labor Day Invitational. The player Kolek feels will replace O’Reilly is 5-foot-8 sophomore Hayley Macken out of Clifton Park, N.Y. She was on the roster a year ago, but had to wait her turn.

"She’s really athletic," Kolek said. "She got overlooked (by other schools). She could be a Division II or a low-level Division I player."

Of course you win with experience, and the Raiders have plenty of that. Senior Lauren Silverman out of Chelmsford, Mass., was an All-American last year and could be even better this year. "She’s tall (5-11), athletic, jumps well and offensively really strong," Kolek said.

The Raiders are also looking for good things from senior middle hitter Dana Mott, and especially another senior, Molly McCormack. The Raiders’ 5-7 outside hitter from Ballston Lake, N.Y., has a chance, if she stays healthy, to reach 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. It would be a dual milestone not seen by Riv before.

"I’ve been coaching 20 years and I’ve never, never had anybody do that," Kolek said.

Campbell alum Alex Trevains is a 5-10 junior middle hitter. Kolek, as always, has a host of recruits waiting in the wings. One of those, Jillian Boyle out of Andover, Mass., could contribute right away.

It was a bitter pill to swallow a year ago after being the tourney favorite, and the Raiders received six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll, tied with J&W. Right now, Kolek feels they are on pace to be as good if not better than a year ago. Their quest for a three-peat went by the boards, but starting a new title streak and a return to the NCAAs is the goal.

"They haven’t missed a beat from last year," he said.

They just want to go a step or two further.

DWC volleyball

Over at Daniel Webster College, meanwhile, volleyball is once again a sport in transition as the Eagles are on the verge of naming a new coach.

They have a scheduled season opener Saturday against Lyndon State in a tournament at Mount Ida that school officials maintain they will play in.

First, Braden Zamore, who built up the men’s and women’s programs, left in the spring of 2014 to coach at St. Anselm.

And then his successor, Pete Kazlas, bolted in July for the men’s and women’s opening at New England Collegiate Conference foe Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., officially named coach of both on July 14. Kazlas did a superb job, going 16-13 overall with the Eagle men while 11-19 (5-3 NECC) with the women in the 2015-16 academic year.

The Eagles graduated just two seniors and could have as many as seven juniors on the squad, so they should be in good shape.

They had three All-NECC players a year ago, including Bedford’s Hannah Koehler (First Team, junior this year) and Third Teamers Nicole Beard (junior) and Madeline Roulier (one of two potential seniors).

Koehler led the Eagles with 224 total kills a season ago after transferring in from Division II’s Dowling College.

All Beard had done was post 957 assists (third all-time at DWC) in her first two seasons. Roulier, meanwhile, has posted three-
season totals of 569 kills (fourth all-time at DWC), 793 digs (second all-time), 39 total blocks, 146 aces (sixth all-time), and 86 assists covering 77 total matches.