The Wolfpacker

September 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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72 ■ THE WOLFPACKER "She was around some really good lead- ers on the team that year," Bunn said. "She's seen what it takes, in terms of the leadership role and getting back to the tournament. That's our goal this year, and it's nice hav- ing a person with that experience." The coach is quick to note that several freshmen played key roles last year, which will help ease the sting of so many de- parted seniors. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Kearney, who became the first NCSU player to earn a spot on the ACC All-Freshman team since 2011, leads the group while classmates Perry Ramsey and Julia Brown also appear poised to take the next step after promising debuts. "It always means a lot when you get some freshmen experience that matters," the coach noted. "They're great kids, ter- rific athletes and have a great work ethic. It's going to take a little bit of time for them to get some more experience, but we're re- ally excited about the future." Bunn also looks forward to seeing what type of impact this year's rookies can make. A common thread throughout the group was that they continued to improve throughout their prep careers, and that trend should continue on the college level. "We've got a couple of kids that are go- ing to come in and help," he said. "Becky Porter was a pleasant surprise with how she developed so well during her senior year of high school. Blayke Hranicka is a really dynamic middle, who again developed late and we were fortunate to get her in April of last year. Then, Sarah Konchan is an outside hitter from Wisconsin who is going to come in and contribute, and Kassie Kasper is a defensive specialist that is going to compete for playing time right away, as well." In addition to Cormier, the other upper- classmen are experienced. Fellow senior Aljoe ranked second on the team with 324 assists last season and averaged 9.3 per set in 2013, which ranked seventh in the ACC. Junior setter Maggie Speaks started 23 of the 25 matches she appeared in last sea- son, and ranked first on the team and sixth in the ACC with an average of 9.4 assists per set. Meanwhile, classmate Rachel Ep- pley has lined up at both defensive special- ist and libero, and has been one of just two players to play in every set for each of the past two seasons. The veterans' experience should allow them to lead the youngsters in the right direction, hopefully culminating in a return to the NCAA Championships. "Our goal is to be one of the best de- fensive teams in the conference," Bunn explained. "We want to be in the top third of the conference — our goal is to be in the top five and that would give us a really good shot of making the NCAA Tourna- ment, which is our ultimate goal. "The exciting aspect of the season is the culture of the team is really at a good place right now, and we have so many young people who are willing to do the things that we need to do to be successful." ■ Key Players To Watch Senior middle blocker/opposite Megan Cormier — After being forced to miss the 2013 campaign because of a knee injury, she bounced back in a big way last year. The former highly touted recruit led the Pack in kills against a pair of top‑10 opponents and earned all‑tournament honors at the NC State Courtyard Midtown Classic. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Kearney — She burst onto the scene as a rookie and was named to the all‑tournament team in three of the four early season events, including MVP honors at the Georgia Benson Hospitality Invitational. Kearney paced the squad in kills (277), blocks (118) and points scored (360.5) last year. Junior setter Maggie Speaks — The Camden, S.C., native started 23 times and played in 25 matches last year, leading NCSU with 799 assists. Her average of 9.4 assists per set ranked sixth in the ACC, and there will be a lot of competition for the setter position this fall. SPEAKS ■ By The Numbers 4 Consecutive winning seasons for the Pack under sixth‑year head coach Bryan Bunn, which is just one shy of tying the program record for most consecu‑ tive seasons above .500 by a head coach. They have gone 78‑49 (.614 winning percentage) during that span. 12 Consecutive wins were recorded from Aug. 30 to Sept. 26 last year, falling one victory short of tying the program record set in 2012. 118 Blocks posted last year by Kaitlyn Kearney, which led the team, ranked second among ACC rookies and were the most for a Pack freshman since 1994. Noting The Pack • While historic Reynolds Coliseum undergoes a $35 million renovation, the volleyball team will split its home games between Carmichael Gymnasium (the student gym on campus) and Broughton High School. Both tournaments the Pack will host, as well as four dual matches, will take place in Car‑ michael, while six ACC contests will be held at the gymnasium of the Raleigh high school. The team is expected to be back in their longtime home by August 2016. Senior middle blocker/opposite Megan Cormier is the only player that was on the roster when the Pack made the NCAA Tournament in 2012. PHOTO BY LRRY BLANKENSHIP

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