WASHINGTON – Gallaudet University's reign as the seven-time North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) women's volleyball champion came to a screeching halt last season as the Bison fell in the championship match to Morrisville State. Outsiders may have considered that result a big disappointment to the highly decorated Bison women's volleyball program but after suffering a key injury mid-season the Bison's hopes to just make the NEAC tournament were in doubt.
Coach Lynn Ray Boren never expected to reach the tournament after senior setter Jasmine Jeter went down with a season-ending injury. The Bison had to scramble and move players around to fill the void left by a veteran like Jeter. Gallaudet's younger players were up for the challenge as the Bison rallied to make the playoffs and reach an eighth straight NEAC championship match.
"Last season Adele Daniels (Austin, Texas) was still very new [as a setter] but she had to step up as the team's main setter," said Boren, when asked to reflect on last year's turning point in the season. "This season we are going to rotate between Daniels and freshman Emma Giuntoli (Austin, Texas) at setter. I expect big things from both of them, especially from Adele as she enters her junior year."
Outside hitter Tessa Lewis (Frederick, Md.) returns after two years away and is expected to make an immediate impact. Coach Boren hinted at Lewis' return back on the court could turn into a big year for her. Sophomore Karita Lewis (Frederick, Md.), Tessa's cousin, is the only other starter along with Daniels from last year's team back. She will play a big role in the upcoming season.
Boren emphasized the experience of the team and their family-like approach to discussion, strategy, and execution. He expects this year to be full-throttle for the Bison, and a fun season for fans as an adept defense ramps up. With seven years of cumulative defensive experience between them, junior defensive specialist Farrah Harmount (Union City, Calif.) and senior libero Raelyn Fuechtmann (South St. Paul, Minn.) are expected to run a tight back line.
Here is a breakdown of the 2018 Gallaudet women's volleyball team.
NEAC Record: 7-2
Highlights: Reached NEAC championship match for an eighth consecutive year, Lynn Ray Boren earned his 300th career win with sweep of Bryn Athyn (Sept. 23, 2017)
Awards: Darriyan Thomas repeats as NEAC Player of the Year and picked to All-NEAC first team for a third time
Adele Daniels (Austin, Texas), Jr., Outside Hitter/Setter
Daniels had to switch positions late last season to help the Bison out at setter. She finished the year with 391 assists (3.20 per set) to go with 288 kills, 298 digs, 39 service aces and 37 blocks. She will play a dual role again in 2018 as both an outside hitter and setter.
Raelyn Fuechtmann (South St. Paul, Minn.), Sr., Libero
Fuechtmann and Daniels were the only Bison to appear in all 34 matches last year. She led the team with 522 digs and 67 service aces plus added and added 54 assists. Fuechtmann plays a vital role on the team and has become more comfortable in the libero position as she enters her senior season.
Tessa Lewis (Frederick, Md.), Jr., Outside Hitter/Opposite
Lewis returns to the team after a two-year hiatus. Coach Boren hopes Lewis can return to her 2015 form when she was third on the team with 283 kills and 31 blocks in 36 matches.
Darriyan Thomas (Vallejo, Calif.), Outside Hitter
Thomas was a two-time NEAC Player of the Year and three-time All-NEAC first team outside hitter. Last season, she led the team with 443 kills, 67 service aces and added 401 digs and 31 blocks.
Emma Giuntoli (Austin, Texas), Fr., Setter
Guintoli along with Daniels will handle setting duties for the Bison in 2018. She was recognized as a leader in the Austin-area volleyball circuit with 7.1 assists per set.
"In the past five days, I have seen these women develop a family rapport, with vibrant discussion and scheming for their new season together. If this energy withstands in the first week of the season, I know we will have a good year. Overall, this is going to a be a fun season to watch with the experienced defenders and new strategy in place." Lynn Ray Boren, Gallaudet University women's volleyball head coach
- Season opener: Battlefield Classic at Gettysburg, Pa. (Fri., Aug. 31)
- Home opener: vs. St. Mary's (Wed., Sept. 12)
- Conference opener: at St. Elizabeth (Sat., Sept. 15)
- Worthington Classic: Eight-team tournament (Sept. 28-29)
- NEAC weekend: Four-team crossover tournament (Oct. 5-6)
- Homecoming/Senior Night: vs. Penn St.-Berks (Fri., Oct. 26)
- NEAC Tournament: Oct. 30, Nov. 3-4
GU begins its season on Friday, Aug. 31, on the road at the annual Battlefield Classic in Gettysburg, Pa. The Bison have kicked off their schedule at the Battlefield Classic for the past nine seasons. GU will go up against Gettysburg College, Messiah College, McDaniel College and Penn St.-Altoona.
The Bison head to Virginia to face Eastern Mennonite University on Sept. 5 before heading back to Pennsylvania to participate in the York (Pa.) College Spartan Invitational (Sept. 7-8) where they will face New York University, Johns Hopkins University, Elizabethtown College and Haverford College.
Gallaudet makes its home opener on Wednesday, Sept. 12, against St. Mary's College of Maryland at 7 p.m. GU will host College of Saint Elizabeth and Methodist University on Sept. 15 before heading up to Baltimore to face Notre Dame of Maryland University on Sept. 18.
The Bison will travel to New York to face NEAC foes SUNY Poly and SUNY Cobleskill on Sept. 22 before an away NEAC contest at Penn St.-Abington (Sept. 26).
The Bison will host the 12th annual Worthington Classic, an eight-team tournament on Sept. 28 and 29. Gallaudet will face Ramapo College of New Jersey and Dickinson College on Sept. 28 before going up against Olivet on Sept. 29 along with a fourth match later in the day. The other participants in the tournament include Elmira College, Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham, Lycoming College and Marymount (Va.) University.
The month of October begins with the Bison on the road in Lancaster, Pa., to face three NEAC teams in Lancaster Bible College (Oct. 5), Wells College and Keuka College (Oct. 6). GU will make the short trip to Winchester, Va., on Tuesday, Oct. 9, to face Shenandoah University. The Bison return home to host Goucher College (Oct. 11) along with Hood College and Penn College (Oct. 13). GU goes up against Marymount (Oct. 16) on the road before continuing its annual tri-meet with University of Scranton and Lebanon Valley College (Oct. 19) in Scranton, Pa.GU remains on the road to face Morrisville State College, the defending NEAC champions, and Cazenovia College (Oct. 20) in Morrisville, N.Y. Gallaudet then makes the cross-town trip to The Catholic University of America (Oct. 24) before coming back to the Field House to play against Penn St.-Berks (Oct. 26) on Homecoming Weekend/Senior Day.
The NEAC tournament quarterfinals will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The NEAC tournament continues with the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 3, followed by the championship on Sunday, Nov. 4. Gallaudet has hosted the NEAC championship tournament three times (2012, '13, '14) since joining the conference in 2010. The NCAA tournament will start the following week.
BISON HOME MATCHES
Sept. 12 vs. St. Mary's, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 vs. St. Elizabeth 11 a.m., Methodist 3 p.m.
Sept. 28-29 – Worthington Classic
Oct. 11 vs. Goucher, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 vs. Hood 11 a.m., Penn College 3 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Penn St.-Berks