COLUMBUS, Ohio – The nationally-ranked, seventeen strong Columbus State Cougar volleyball squad is eagerly awaiting the first serve of the 2019 season, which will start at Clark State on Sat, Aug. 24.
Last year, the Cougars enjoyed a stellar regular season but suffered a shocking upset early in the post-season, abruptly dashing any national championship hopes. However, according to fifth year head coach Jill Yocum, the returners are more focused and motivated than ever to make 2019 "a season to remember."
For the 2019 season, the Cougars return six contributors from last season, while adding two transfers and nine freshmen to the roster. "There are 11 newcomers that bring experience and high levels of competitive spirit to make their debut as Cougars an asset," said Yocum. "Since day one they have been totally on board with making the 2019 season successful."
NJCAA all-American Bobby Diamond (Delaware/Olentangy HS) was just named an AVCA Top Player to Watch in 2019. The outside hitter hit the court running in 2018, leading her team in kills per set (3.18) and hitting percentage (.399). Playing several positions as a freshman, she is looking forward to moving to her most experienced position as an outside hitter. "The talent that Bobby brings is certainly amazing, but it is her humbleness, selflessness and proud to be as Cougar attitude that makes her the ultimate team player," said Yocum.
Audrey Jenkins (Canal Winchester/Canal Winchester HS) averaged 5.09 assists per set in a 6-2 rotation in 2018. The primarily setter for 2019, Audrey has dedicated herself off season to increasing her vertical jump and is ready to be an asset in the front row. Audrey was elected Freshman Captain in 2018 and is now leading the Cougars as Captain in 2019. "Audrey is truly a leader on and off the court, her dedication and enthusiasm is contagious," Yocum said. "We consider her the heart of this very special team."
Edan Jones (Dublin/Dublin Scioto HS) was a six rotation player for the Cougars last year, hitting outside and playing left back. According to Coach Yocum, "she has complete knowledge of the game, complete control of the ball, sees the court like no other, has great hands and is a digging machine. We are looking to play her as libero, but have also been working on her setting, as she can jump well and can post a solid block."
Tiziana Russell (Galloway/Fort Hayes & West HS) has moved into a starting role for the Cougars in 2019. When coming to Columbus State she had no experience at the right side position, but has worked very hard to not only learn it, but "Own it". T hits a very heavy, well placed ball, and is posting a very strong block," said Yocum. "She has become a very confident player and a very important component of the 2019 team."
Megan Mechlin (Grove City/Grove City HS) was the libero for the 2018 season and is moving to a defensive specialist (DS) position this season. "Megan has worked very hard off season and is ready to perfect middle back," Yocum said. "Her dedication and perfection add to her court leadership skills."
Samantha Dunn (Powell/Olentangy Liberty HS) is a returning (DS) that led the Cougars in service aces last season. She will be moving to right back this year. "Her dedication to working out consistently throughout the off season has added to perfecting her digging and running down tip skills," Yocum said.
Mason Steele (Pickerington/Pickerington Central HS) is coming to Columbus State as a transfer from Heidelberg College, where she played defense on the JV team. Mason will be playing outside hitter for the Cougars. "Mason has an amazing vertical jump and can hit effectively with either the right or left hand," Yocum said. "She has an amazing work ethic, and being a bit of a perfectionist, has added to her rapid progress in switching from defense to offense."
Tate Rybarczyk (Avon Lake/Avon Lake HS) came from Ohio Dominican University, where she played libero in 2018, accumulating an impressive 550 digs. According to coach Yocum, "Tate is quick, and relentless in getting to the balls. She has a very positive attitude and true love for the game, she is very coachable and works to be the best that she can be."
Nine new freshmen will step onto the court to don the navy and white this season.
Esther Holtzclaw (Westerville/Westerville Central HS) moves well at the net and has command of the role of the middle. "Her talent is only surpassed by her competitive spirit, love for the game, and positive attitude," Yocum said.
Burgin Bachman (Liberty Center/Liberty Center HS) is another middle joining the Cougars for 2019. A champion gymnast, cheerleader, and track and field athlete, she was also a four year varsity starter on her high school volleyball team. "Burgin's work ethic, competitive spirit, and fun loving nature makes even the longest, tough practice pleasurable," said Yocum.
Akea Hunter (Columbus/Centennial HS) is a powerful middle, who was also a multi-sport athlete, competing in both basketball and track and field. According to Yocum, "Akea is truly an explosive package, her vertical and arm swing are fast and furious. She demonstrates her high tempo competitiveness every minute she is on the court."
Jenna Barbessi (Canfield/South Range HS) has experience as an outside hitter and DS, giving Coach Yocum options for her role for the Cougars. "We are asking her to concentrate on a defensive position for the 2019 season, which she has taken with much enthusiasm and a very positive attitude."
Isis Price (Delaware/Delaware Hayes HS) is another Cougar with experience as both an outside hitter and DS. For the 2019 team, her focus will primarily be working on the outside hitter position. "Her positive attitude and extreme work ethic will make her an amazing player," said Yocum.
Delaney Short (Mount Vernon/Mount Vernon HS) is a DS/libero that brings energy to every moment she is on the court, according to Yocum. "She is the total package of talent, compassion for the game, and undying enthusiasm. She works hard and doesn't settle for less than perfection. A true asset to the Cougar line-up in 2019."
Brooklyn Granato (Galloway/Westland HS) is a DS that will be playing right back for the Cougars this season. Although she has extensive experience at left back, Coach Yocum said "Brook has a wonderful attitude and is more than willing to do whatever she is asked to do, with a passion to do it well. She is quick, with a low center of gravity, both very important attributes for a great DS."
Jordan Plas (Westerville/Westerville Central HS) is a setter, has very good hands, and knowledge of the setters role, according to Yocum. "She has command of the variety and tempo of sets, which makes her a very valuable asset to our program."
Samantha McKenna (Pataskala/Licking Heights HS) is also a setter, allowing the Cougars to have depth in a very important position for successful volleyball. "Samantha is pushing herself every practice to get faster and perfect her sets. We have a lot of confidence in her progress," Yocum said.
Yocum expressed her enthusiasm about the incoming group. "This group of young ladies are amazing, every one of them works hard every minute of every practice. Some are perfecting positions they are familiar with and some are working to learn new positions, but everyone is working, with positive attitudes, and a passion for being the best that they can be. Their attitude generates a special energy, this team doesn't just want to compete, but they want to win!"