2002 Season Outlook
Aug. 23, 2002
The Dukes enter the 2002 campaign eagerly and with enthusiasm as they key in on improving one of the best seasons in recent history, as well as their standings in the highly competitive Atlantic 10 Conference. The Dukes posted a stellar performance finishing the 2001 slate 16-10 overall, 8-8 in the A-10 to tie for fifth in the Conference standings. It was their most successful season since the 1996 slate, which produced an 18-13 mark, and resulted in fifth-year Head Coach Steve Opperman being named the Atlantic 10's Co-Coach of the Year by his peers.
The Red & Blue return a solid and experienced force led by three returning starters in senior Jacqui Gerlach and juniors Sarah Morrow and Sarah Brown, despite losing five seniors to graduation. Morrow, one of DU's strongest presences at the net, paced the Dukes in blocks and stood fourth among Atlantic 10 leaders last season. Brown is back for her third year leading the Duquesne offense. She paced the Dukes with nearly 12 assists per game last season, which ranked fourth among Conference leaders. Gerlach brings great court awareness to the squad and is back as the Dukes top defensive player with 2.50 digs per game and intensifies the Dukes' attack.
Also back to lead the Dukes into a solid season of play are returning letterwinners Ashley Macko, Jill McQuellon, Cristy Gustus and Erin Trageser. Five talented and enthusiastic newcomers join them in Karisa Decker, Jessica Eckert, Stephanie Hopkins, Monica Tinsley and Diana Wuebker to solidify the roster.
Brown will see her third year as the Dukes' setter where she has controlled the offense with her incredible court sense and consistency. She averaged 11.99 assists per game last season and added 204 digs, 61 kills, 24 blocks and 29 service aces. Junior Cristy Gustas will provide back up to Brown adding to the position's strength and depth. She saw action in 10 matches last season off the bench, a role she supports well with her determination and ability to bring a spark to the game.
Leading the outside position is Jacqui Gerlach and Ashley Macko. Gerlach, the lone senior on the squad, is the Dukes' second leading attacker averaging 2.19 kills last season. The powerful hitter also racked up 2.50 digs, which stood third for DU, and added 10 service aces. Adding to the experience is sophomore Erin Trageser who saw action in 22 matches with eight starts. She posted 1.41 kills and .25 blocks per game as a rookie. Strong contributions are expected from freshmen Stephanie Hopkins and Jessica Eckert. Hopkins twice led her Sweet Home squad to the New York state championship where they finished second in 2000 and 2001. An all-state selection, she was also named an all-conference performer as well as an All-Western New York selection. Eckert led her New Bremen team to an 18-5 mark as a senior and was named the MAC and District 8 Player of the Year. The first team All-Ohio selection also earned all-conference honors as senior.
Sarah Morrow will control the play at the net and is back as one of DU's most solid and consistent performers. Morrow led the Dukes in blocks and hitting percentage posting an impressive .305. She was third with 2.72 kills and ranked fourth among A-10 leaders in blocks and stood fifth hitting percentage. She added 2.06 digs per game and 14 service aces. Junior Jill McQuellon supplies depth and intensity to the middle position where she is expected to see additional time as she challenges for her role in the rotation. She saw time in six matches last season providing back up to the veteran-led squad. Newcomers Monica Tinsley and Diana Wuebker are expected to be immediate contributors. A three-time first team All-Fort Ancient Valley Conference selection, Tinsley led the FAVC in blocks and kills her senior year and was chosen to participate in the Southwest Ohio Senior Showcase. Wuebker, an all-state and all-district pick, led her St. Henry squad to back-to-back MAC Championship crowns as a junior and senior and achieved first team All-Ohio, all-conference and all-districts laurels.
Freshman Karisa Decker will guide back row play as the Dukes' libero, a position instituted this year in Division I, which restructures the role of the defensive specialist. She helped lead her North Allegheny squad to the WPIAL and PIAA state finals this past season. Solely a back-row player, Decker will put her defensive skills to work for the Dukes with her steady ball control and court awareness.
A strong and competitive schedule is on tap for the Dukes who will face three teams that advanced to the 2001 NCAA championship in Liberty, Xavier and Robert Morris. The Red & Blue open the season hosting the Duquesne Invitational August 30 and 31 facing Liberty, Western Illinois and West Virginia. The Dukes then compete in their first of three road tournaments at Canisius followed by the UMKC tourney. A non-conference match at Pitt Sept. 17 marks the Dukes' first single match before their final tournament at Villanova. The Atlantic 10 season begin Sept. 27 at Dayton while Temple comes to the Palumbo on Oct. 4 to open home league play. The Atlantic 10 tournament closes out the season Nov. 22-23 hosted by 2001 NCAA participant and defending Conference champion, Xavier.