Setting the Scene What: Bucknell Invitational
When: Aug. 25-27
Where: Davis Gym (Lewisburg, Pa.)
Teams: Bucknell, Iona, La Salle, NJIT, Saint Peter’s
Friday, Aug. 25
4 p.m. – NJIT vs. Iona | Live Stats
6:30 p.m. – La Salle at Bucknell | Live Stats
Saturday, Aug. 26
10 a.m. – Iona vs. La Salle | Live Stats
Noon – NJIT vs. Saint Peter’s | Live Stats
3 p.m. – Iona at Bucknell | Live Stats
5:30 p.m. – NJIT vs. La Salle | Live Stats
Sunday, Aug. 27
Noon – Saint Peter’s at Bucknell | Live Stats
About the Bison
* The Patriot League Preseason Poll was recently released, and Bucknell was picked to finish sixth in the standings by a vote of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
* American was the unanimous pick to win the conference. Bucknell was picked ahead of Loyola (Md.), Holy Cross, and Lafayette.
* Anna Allison is entering her fifth season as the head coach of Bucknell and her 13th season overall on the Bison coaching staff. She ranks third in program history with 36 wins.
* Luz Nagle, Celeste Barker, and Blake Buchholz will serve as team captains this season.
* The Bison return two players – Bridgette Holland and Mimi Richards – that combined for three Patriot League Rookie of the Week awards last season. Unfortunately, Holland will miss the season with an injury.
* Another sophomore, Sophie Bullard, had a solid freshman season. She led the team in kills/set (2.45).
* Nagle and returning sophomore Selby Schnobrich split time at setter last season. The duo combined for 1,010 assists (9.7/set).
Scouting the Opponents
* La Salle went 10-20 overall and 1-13 in in the Atlantic 10 last season. Setter Kathryn Wood and outside hitter Devin Corah were voted to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.
* Iona went 7-24 overall and 5-13 in the MAAC last season. The Gaels were picked ninth in the MAAC Preseason Poll this year.
* Saint Peter’s went 0-25 overall and 0-18 in the MAAC last season. The Peacocks were picked 10th in the MAAC Preseason Poll this year.
Series History with Opponents
* Bucknell leads the all-time series with La Salle 15-7. The Bison have won six straight, including a 3-0 shutout in 2015.
* The Bison lead the all-time series with Iona 6-3, including a 3-0 victory in the most recent meeting in 2013.
* Bucknell leads the all-time series with Saint Peter’s 8-0. The Bison won 3-2 the last time the teams played in 2011.
* Bucknell will play Providence, East Carolina, and Stetson at the Hatter Classic in DeLand, Fla., on Sept. 2-3.
Bucknell volleyball has put up some quality league wins in each of the past two seasons, beating teams it hadn’t defeated in years. Those victories prove what the Bison are capable of, and now they will attempt to put it all together for a full season to put itself in position for a postseason run.
Fifth-year Bison head coach Anna Allison talks a lot about consistency and that is again what she is looking for from her team this season. For that she is leaning on her three captains – Celeste Barker, Luz Nagle, and Blake Buchholz.
“Our captains are doing a phenomenal job of keeping the team focused and working together,” Allison said. “They are really contributing to building a good culture here. Our players are committed to working to get better each day.”
Last season, Bucknell defeated Lehigh for the first time in four years. Two seasons ago, the Bison beat Army West Point for the first time in nine years and Navy for the first time in five years.
“It is American’s league until someone knocks them off,” Allison said. “But, the thing I like about our league and volleyball in general is that really anyone can beat anyone on any given night. There are a lot of teams battling for the remaining playoff spots. It could easily come down to the last games of the season.”
The Bison took a big hit prior to the season when it lost one of its top players to a season-ending injury for the second time in three seasons. Bridgette Holland, who was a two-time Patriot League Rookie of the Week last season and often took over long stretches of matches, will be unable to play this year.
But while losing Holland was certainly a tough blow to the team, Allison is very excited about what she does have at middle blocker with Celeste Barker and Mimi Richards.
“Celeste will play in the middle and some on the outside. She came back from a knee injury better, stronger, and faster,” Allison said. “I believe Mimi has the potential to be what Karen Campbell was for us two seasons ago. She has the ability to take over matches.”
Providing depth in the middle will be Jamie Risdal, who is just getting back to full strength.
The Bison have numerous players expected to compete and play significant minutes at outside hitter, including sophomore Sophie Bullard, who had an outstanding freshman season last year, and Buchholz, who looks to return to the level that showed tons of promise during her freshman season two years ago.
“Sophie will continue to be a force for us on the outside,” Allison said. “She plays with emotion and drive. When she is on, it makes us tough to beat.”
Also competing for time on the outside are senior Stefanie Alpert, junior Lindsey Baker, and freshman Delanie Lewis.
Senior Hailey Stout returns at right side hitter and may seem time at outside, as well.
“She is a six-rotation player and can hit equally well from either side,” Allison said of Stout. “We are looking for more consistency from her this year as a senior.”
Freshman Anna Carroll, a lefty, will also see time on the right side.
Bucknell has three quality setters to choose from this season. Nagle and sophomore Selby Schnobrich split time this season and will be joined in the rotation by freshman Charner Ramsey this season. Allison describes Nagle as one of the most athletic players she has ever had in the program.
At libero, Brooke Stark will be the starter after splitting time with Kristen Parks last season.
Allison is also excited about the potential of freshman Alexa Bonanno.
“She can play almost anywhere,” Allison said. “She is a great server, can come in as a libero and can fill in as a setter if needed. She can play pretty much anywhere but the middle.”
Bucknell will lean on a group of sophomores that played more than any other freshman class in the conference last season.
“That freshman class is one of the best we have had here,” Allison said. “Now they are more composed and know how to pace themselves to finish matches.”