The University of Redlands women's volleyball team endured a year of growth with only one senior and one junior among the youth-laden roster of 19 student-athletes. While laying the foundation for the future, the Bulldogs mustered a 6-19 overall record that included a 2-14 showing in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
Redlands opened the season with split results at the high-caliber Pacific Coast Classic by earning wins over the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Union College (NY). Sophomore outside hitter Melanie Fyda (Chicago, IL) impressed in her Bulldog debut with six kills and four block assists in the team's sweep of MCLA. Fyda and sophomore outside Christina Casey (Sherwood, OR) led the charge against Union, as Redlands won in four, tight sets. The duo knocked down 20 kills collectively, with junior setter Jackie Andrade (Seattle, WA) dishing out 29 assists for the Bulldogs.
Four days later, the Maroon and Gray hosted No. 15 University of La Verne in its SCIAC, home opener. The Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders in an impressive first set but could not sustain that momentum and subsequently lost in four. Redlands gained well-timed kills from first-year middle hitter Hannah Lanyon (San Diego, CA) and sophomore right-side hitter Megan Houston (Normandy Park, WA) off of the effective hands of sophomore setter Emily Marty (Chula Vista, CA). Sophomore middle hitter Sofia Olsson (Cupertino, CA) joined the hit parade of the opening set. Furthermore, the defensive efforts of senior libero Abigail Hickman (Phoenix, AZ) and freshman defensive specialist Ally Busch (Long Beach, CA) highlighted the Bulldogs' tenacity on long rallies. They combined for 33 digs by the end of the match.
Following a road loss to Chapman University, the Bulldogs returned home to face the Pomona-Pitzer Colleges Sagehens on September 22. With a high-octane and diversified attack, the Bulldogs topped the Sagehens for the first time since October 26, 2012, and recorded a four-set win. During the pivotal second set, Redlands uncorked a hitting percentage of .483 off of 18 kills, with C. Casey leading the charge by smashing down five of them. Overall, Lanyon paced the Bulldogs' offense with 14 kills on a .591 hitting percentage, as Fyda added 12 kills. Marty distributed 26 assists for the best showing of her young career at Redlands.
Amongst a three-match skid, the Maroon and Gray managed to stretch Occidental College and Cal Lutheran University to four sets but came up short in these road outings.
But the Bulldogs bounced back in consecutive, four-set wins to end the month of September and begin October. Against UC Santa Cruz, the Maroon and Gray overcame an opening-set defeat by elevating and maintaining its level of play through the final whistle. Redlands gained early leads in the subsequent sets, which quickly became sizeable wins against the Banana Slugs. During the third frame, first-year defensive specialist Emily Vankoll (Moraga, CA) entered the match and successfully uncorked nine-consecutive serves while providing quality passing and defense from the back row. As a team, the Bulldogs registered an impressive hitting percentage of .400, with 11 kills and only one error.
The Bulldogs kept things rolling in a four-set victory over Caltech that featured contributions from every available Redlands player. Sophomore outside hitter Paige McLeod (Redlands, CA) produced seven kills to lead the team to victory. In addition, the Maroon and Gray amassed 13 total blocks over the four sets, with Lanyon, Tafoya, first-year right-side hitter Marlena Ramanis (Walnut Creek, CA), and first-year outside hitter Angelina Hughes (Wildomar, CA) accounting for 11 of them.
Redlands' final win of the season came in a sweep of visiting Mills College on October 7. C. Casey's 13 kills and .600 hitting percentage paced the Bulldog offense, while Vankoll supplied a team-high 13 digs. Sophomore right-side hitter Maloree Kupp (Sunnyside, WA) and first-year right-side hitter Savannah Casey (Encinitas, CA) combined for 12 kills in a solid showing as well.
Although the remaining results were not in Redlands' favor, the team worked to set the groundwork for next season. Among the bright spots, S. Casey stepped up with her career-best output at the net with a 10-kill performance against Chapman on October 14.
Against Cal Lutheran, the Bulldogs stretched the Regals to four sets and forced their coach to call two timeouts in an uncharacteristic move. In the third set, the Maroon and Gray faced a must-win situation to extend the match. Redlands rallied back from five points down to take the lead at 16-15. Olsson and Houston provided key plays at the net, while Marty caught CLU off guard with a service ace. From that point on, the Bulldogs' relentless defense by Vankoll and Busch pushed the Regals into multiple errors over the back-and-forth play. McLeod added to the team's success with quality kills before Tafoya and Fyda put up a wall of a block to stifle the visitors. Redlands stayed persistent and closed out the positive set.
The Bulldogs celebrated the career of their lone senior prior to the first serve on October 20 against Occidental College. Hickman went on to complete her fourth year at Redlands by supplying 10 or more digs in 18 matches, as highlighted by a season-high 26 on the road against the Regals earlier this season. She hit the 1000-dig mark in the final match of the season to etch her name in the Bulldog records book at No. 5 all-time. She also sits in a tie for eighth with 90 career aces.
After coming on strong in her rookie season, S. Casey exemplified what it means to be a respectful competitor in a sport she loves. As a result, she was named to the SCIAC All-Sportsmanship Team.
With 10 new players, the Maroon and Gray holds high expectations for a bright future under the continued guidance of Head Coach Lisa Lindberg. As they develop into exemplary Bulldogs, Redlands volleyball anticipates making the upward climb among the highly-touted conference in the seasons to come.