WRITTEN BY BRYAN FONSECA

Tomorrow afternoon the St. Francis Terriers women’s volleyball squad will be in action for the first time in the 2015 fall season. The Terriers will officially make their return when they face the James Madison Dukes in the first game of the annual JMU Classic.

The Terriers will also take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks later in the afternoon as part of the season-opening event.

In last week’s NEC coaches’ preseason poll the Terriers were picked to finish eighth in the league and Friday afternoon marks the beginning of a season where they look to prove the coaches wrong.

In spite of a (2-28) finish to 2014, the Terriers squad which was largely comprised of underclassmen had another year to develop their all-important team chemistry.

Last season the Terriers struggled to finish out close games in which they could’ve been victorious. These matches include their showdowns against Dartmouth, Farleigh Dickinson, and both games against Central Connecticut State, all of which were five sets long.

This is something that with another year of experience together the returning core group can help propel this team to a more successful turnout in 2015.

Amongst those returnees are standout outside hitters Domenique Gerard and Brook Haliscak.

Gerard recorded 193 kills (2.01 per set) and 747 total attacks, leading the team in all three categories during 2014, and the junior will look to have an even bigger impact this time around.

Haliscak is likely take a step-forward after a promising freshman season in which she finished second on the team with 176 kills and second in average kills per set with 1.93.

Kelly O’Halloran, Maggie Niu and Leah Zitting are all seniors looking to build off of their 2014 production and go out with a bang. O’Halloran was one of the most productive setters in the NEC by finishing in the conference’s top ten in assists with 541, and 7th in assists per set by averaging 5.82 last year.

Middle hitters Niu and Zitting were also among the team-leaders in kills with 169 and 154 respectively.

The opposing Dukes are coming off of a 2014 season where they finished with a (17-14) overall record which includes going (8-8) in Colonial Athletic Association conference action.

The Dukes made it to the CAA playoffs and had their season-ended after getting swept by the Hofstra Pride in straight sets.

The Dukes will be led by junior outside hitter Jamey Goodman who has been an absolute stud for her team in her first two seasons.

Goodman finished 2014 with a team-leading 369 kills (3.27 per set), and has been named to the All-CAA second team in each of the last two years. She was also named to the all-tournament team in this very same JMU Classic last season.

Outside hitter Meghan Niski is also returning for the Dukes, and this will be the beginning of her senior season.

Last year she finished with 226 kills (2.09 per set), and was third on the team in both categories.

In the second game against the Mountain Hawks, the Terriers will have their hands full with a team coming off of a stellar 2014 campaign.

The Mountain Hawks were one of the Patriot League’s best team’s by finishing (14-2) in the conference, and (22-10) overall. The lost to the American Eagles in the Patriot League tournament finals ended their season.

The Mountain Hawks will be led by senior outside hitter Stephanie Slater who recorded 291 kills (2.65 per set) last season, both of which were second on the team, and leads the way for all Mountain Hawk returnees.

The Terriers will clash with the Dukes at 1 p.m., and with the Mountain Hawks with 5:30 p.m. Both games will take place at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and both games are on Friday, August 28.

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