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First-year AU volleyball coach confident in team’s prospects
8/31/09

ALFRED, NY -- Emily Mishalanie takes over an Alfred University volleyball team that has struggled over the last two seasons, going a combined 8-46 with no wins in Empire 8 Conference play. Still, with a solid group of veterans returning, and some talented newcomers, Mishalanie is confident in her team’s ability to reverse its fortunes.

“I’ve stressed focusing on the future,” said Mishalanie, a 2004 AU graduate and former Saxon volleyball player. “As far as we’re concerned, this is a new program.”

Four key players return from a season ago: senior middle hitter Emily Steen (South Pasadena, CA/Purnell School) senior outside hitter Janelle Brandow (Dolgeville, NY/Dolgeville) and junior middle hitter Tara Quigley (Bluepoint, NY/Bayport-Bluepoint) and sophomore outside hitter Emily Crosby (Fairport, NY/Fairport).

Steen and Brandow have been starters for the Saxons for three years and Quigley two. Crosby stepped in a freshman last season and earned a spot on the first string as well.

Steen is the leader among returnees in digs (285 last year) and assists (116). She had 74 kills, 16 aces and 42 blocks in 2008. Brandow is the leader among returnees in kills (100) and service aces (19). She added 246 digs and 38 blocks last season.”

“(Steen) is invaluable because she can play any position, any time, and do exactly what you need her to do. She provides leadership on and off the court. Brandow “has great knowledge of the game. She can play in the middle and on the right or left side.”

Quigley led the team in blocks last season with 82 — to go with 87 kills and 2002 digs — and will be counted on again to be a presence in the middle. “Tara is similar to (Steen) in that she can play anywhere. She’s very versatile. She keeps the team’s mood positive and leads by example on and off the court,” Mishalanie said.

Crosby “brings a lot of everything to her game,” Mishalanie said. “Her enthusiasm and energy, the effort she gives. She’s a hard and accurate server. Just a great all-around player.”

AU will welcome the return of senior right side hitter Katie Lane (Edison, NJ/John P. Stevens). She had 66 kills and 21 blocks as a junior in 2007 before taking last season off. Also back is junior defensive specialist/libero Erika Huyck (Forestville, NY/Forestville). She had 161 digs and 13 aces as a freshman in 2007 and wasn’t on the team in 2008.

“Katie brings a lot of composure and maturity. She plays very smart and we’re happy to have her back in the program,” Mishalanie said. “Erika has a lot of heart and she really hustles. She’ll be a key defensive player for us.”

There are six newcomers, including four freshman, on the AU roster. Senior setter Emma Walsh (Lancaster, NY/Mt. St. Mary) is in her first year of collegiate volleyball. A former AU softball player, she’ll be counted onto contribute right away. “She’s our quarterback,” Mishalanie said of Walsh. “She last played in high school but has jumped right back in and will be our setter.”

Stephanie Miller (Indianapolis, IN/North Central) is a junior playing her first season of volleyball at Alfred. Mishalanie said she’s pleased with the progress Miller has made to the college game and expects her to be “a key part of our offense as a middle or right side hitter.”

Freshmen Kellie Hughson (Albion, NY/Charles D’Amico), Pattilyn McLaughlin (Cairo, NY/Cairo-Durham), Leanne Combs (Cairo, NY/Cairo-Durham), and Jennifer Mirando (Bronx, NY/Academy of Letters) round out the roster. Mishalanie said Hughson will be a defensive specialist and could see time at libero. McLaughlin, an outside hitter, and Miranda, a defensive specialist, “have made great strides” since the beginning of the preseason, the coach said, adding that she expect Combs to be a solid defensive specialist this season.

Mishalanie said she has been impressed with how close the team has become and how hard they’ve worked to turn things around from the last few seasons. “This team has had some rough years, but one of our strengths is we’re all on the same page. The players have a great bond and they all want to push each other to succeed,” she said.