Dukes Look for Break-Through Year in 2003

Aug. 4, 2003

After posting two of the most successful seasons in Duquesne volleyball history, the 2003 edition of Dukes' Volleyball enters the season enthusiastic and determined to keep the momentum alive. The Red & Blue posted its most triumphant campaign in recent history last year going 18-12 overall. Only the 1996 squad has had as many wins with its 18-13 record. The team went 7-7 in league action finishing in a tie for fourth with Xavier and Rhode Island. Duquesne just missed advancing to the four-team Atlantic 10 championship losing the tiebreaker to Xavier, a team they split matches with during the regular season.

It's may be hard to improve upon the recent accomplishments, but with five starters and 10 letterwinners returning, the 2003 slate looks to be a promising one. Back to lead the Dukes' drive for the A-10 championship are starters Sarah Morrow, Sarah Brown, Erin Trageser, Ashley Macko and Diana Wuebker. Morrow led the Dukes and was second in the Conference with 1.03 blocks per game and was second with 3.22 kills per game. Macko paced DU in kills (3.22 kpg) and service aces (0.27 sapg) and added 2.25 digs a contest. Brown led the offense with 10.62 assists per game and added 2.04 digs and 0.30 blocks. Trageser averaged 2.32 digs and 1.94 kills per game while Wuebker, the only freshman starter, averaged 2.61 kills, 2.56 digs and 0.80 blocks a contest.

The team's solidarity is completed with the return of five talented letterwinners in Jill McQuellon, Cristy Gustas, Stephanie Hopkins, Monica Tinsley and Karisa Decker. McQuellon, Hopkins and Tinsley add to the quality of DU's net play while Decker helps secure the backcourt as the team's libero. Freshmen Avery Dunn and Amanda Haeg complete the roster and should have promising rookie campaigns.

Securing the offense for the fourth-straight year will be Brown. She ranked third in the A-10 with her 10.62 assists average and stands second on the Dukes' career list with 6,525 assists. Brown added 220 digs, 75 kills and 25 aces. Gustas, also a senior, provides sound and dependable backup at the setter position. She averaged 5.52 assists in 29 games last year and collected 34 digs, eight kills and six blocks. Her feisty play and attitude make her an excellent addition to the game in any situation. Adding to the depth of the position is newcomer Avery Dunn, a 2002 first team all-district pick out of Austin, Texas. Dunn, a four-year starter, was named all-district "Setter of the Year" in 2002 as well as the All-Texas Team "Player to Watch". Dunn also had a stellar club career with the Austin Juniors, which placed third at the 2001 AAU nationals.

Consistent play from Macko and Trageser will be the basis of the Dukes' outside attack. Macko, a junior and one of the team's most athletic players, led the Dukes in kills with 3.22 and is one of the most threatening servers racking up 29 aces last year. Trageser, who has stepped up all aspects of her game, is expected to have a solid junior season. She averaged 2.32 digs and 1.94 kills last year. She has great game sense and can set the ball well when needed in clutch situations. Hopkins and Haeg complete the outside hitters. Hopkins started eight of her 25 matches last season as a freshman posting some impressive numbers with a 2.35 kills per game and 2.37 digs per game. She was named an A-10 Rookie of the Week and could challenge for a starting role. Haeg is newcomer from New Prague, Minn. where she was a two-time all-conference selection at New Prague High. She helped her team go undefeated in conference play as a senior and to second-place in the Class AAA tournament in 2001.

Morrow and Wuebker control the Dukes' middle game working as a solid blocking unit. Morrow posted a team-best 1.03 blocks per game and added 3.15 digs and 3.00 kills per game. She reads the attack well and is one of the team's most consistent performers. Wuebker had an outstanding freshman year which was capped off with being named to the A-10 All-Rookie team. She was second for the Dukes with a 0.82 blocking average and added 2.61 kills and 2.56 digs per game. Wuebker posted a .250 hitting percentage and added 25 service aces. McQuellon and Tinsley bring depth and experience to the middle where they will provide back up to a seasoned and veteran corps. McQuellon, a senior, saw time in 22 games last year recording 23 digs and 17 kills while Tinsley competed in 12 games and registered eight kills and three blocks. Tinsley, a sophomore, is a raw talent who has the potential to become a constant contributor throughout the slate.

Decker, a sophomore, guides the Dukes' back row as the libero. She saw time in 10 games last season in a limited role and could see additional backcourt play this year securing the defensive role.

The schedule gets under way Aug. 29-30 with the Duquesne/Robert Morris Invitational. Three other tournaments follow as the Dukes compete in the Rice, San Jose State and West Virginia tourneys. Highlighting the slate are two NCAA participants with matches versus Temple and Robert Morris. A solid non-conference schedule is on hand as seven of the Dukes' opponents racked-up 20-plus wins last year going a combined 162-77. Two of those teams will visit the Palumbo Center with Eastern Michigan (27-7) and Davidson (23-11) competing in the DU/Robert Morris Invitational. Adding to the strength of schedule are possible matches with McNeese State (20-13) at the Rice Invitational, Georgia State (25-14) at the UMBC tourney and Marshall (20-12) at the WVU Invitational.

The season wraps-ups at the Atlantic 10 Championships where the top four seeds vie for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The University of Rhode Island will host this year's championships Nov. 21-22.

This year marks the 30th season of women's volleyball at Duquesne. The first team took to the court in 1974. Volleyball became an NCAA sport in 1981 and the Atlantic 10 added the sport in 1982. Duquesne began competing at the Division I level in 1986.




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