MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A marked improvement, a list of honors and a trip to Europe are just some of the highlights from the 2016-17 WVU volleyball season.
In its second year under the guidance of head coach Reed Sunahara, the Mountaineers made great strides. A large underclassmen contingent teamed with seasoned veterans as the squad more than doubled its win total from the previous season.
Newcomers Make an Impact
Five of the eight newcomers on the roster saw significant playimg time in their first season at West Virginia. Outside hitter Payton Caffrey
led the Mountaineers and ranked among the Big 12’s best with 4.44 kills per set. Fellow hitter Katelyn Evans
ranked third on the team with 1.95 kills per set, and right side Natania Levak
was second with 0.87 blocks per set. Erin Slinde
took over as the team’s starting setter, posting 5.94 assists per set, joining Caffrey on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Gabrielle Cuckovich
also worked her way into the rotation at defensive specialist.
Caffrey Makes Her Mark
Caffrey wasted no time in making her mark on the Mountaineers and earned several accolades for her efforts. She set a freshman program record with 515 total kills, ranking second in single-season program history. Caffrey finished second in the Big 12 in both kills and points, and ranked third in service aces. The Chuluota, Florida, native earned the Big 12’s Rookie of the Week accolades on five occasions, and was named to the Big 12 All-Conference First Team and Big 12 All-Rookie Team at the conclusion of the season. In addition, Caffrey was named the AVCA Midwest Region Freshman of the Year, earning AVCA All-Midwest Region Team honors in the process.
Middle blocker Mia Swanegan
worked her way into the starting rotation in 2015 after transferring to West Virginia from TCU. However, Swanegan took her game to new heights as a junior in 2016. The Blue Springs, Missouri, native led the Big 12 with 1.34 blocks per set and totaled a team-best 149 blocks. Swangan’s season was highlighted by a career-best 13-block performance at K-State on October 24. She was twice named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts.
Sunahara Gets the “W”
In his second year at the helm, Sunahara guided his team to several key wins throughout the season. The Mountaineers recorded a trio of sweeps, defeating Winthrop, Akron and Dartmouth to win the 2016 WVU Invitational at the Coliseum in September. Soon after, the Mountaineers claimed their first Big 12 win under Sunahara with a sweep at Texas Tech. West Virginia made it two in a row with a five-set thriller over rival TCU in Morgantown in late September. The team more than doubled its 2015 win total, posting 12 victories in 2016, and picked up three league wins. In addition, the Mountaineers took then-No. 4 Kansas to five sets and also won sets against No. 19 Santa Clara and No. 5 Texas.
Gotterba Goes for 1,000
hit a career milestone in Ames, Iowa, on Nov. 2. The junior libero led the Mountaineers against Iowa State with 12 digs, eclipsing 1,000 in her career on her fourth dug ball of the night. Gotterba finished with a team-best 452 digs on the season, just shy of the school’s single season top-10 list. She enters her final campaign with 1,095 digs, needing 23 more to move into the program’s all-time top 10.
More Honors …
In addition to Caffrey, Swanegan and Slinde, several Mountaineers were honored for their work on the court and in the classroom. Taylor Cross
, Hannah Shreve
, MaTia Hughes
and Morgan Montgomery
joined Swanegan and Gotterba on the Big 12 All-Academic Volleyball Team. Additionally, Shreve earned CoSIDA Academic All-District Accolades. Caffrey was the WVU Invitational MVP and earned all-tournament team honors at the Penn State Classic and Cal Classic, while Gotterba earned mention on the Capital Classic and WVU Invitational All-Tournament Teams. The pair were also honored as WVU’s Offensive and Defensive MVPs, respectively, at the team’s annual postseason banquet. Slinde earned Most Improved, while Hannah Shreve
took home the Mountaineer Award.
Senior Trio Departs
Three seniors wrapped up their WVU careers in November, as Shreve and Haley Roe
completed four-year campaigns while Hughes was a two-year member of the program. Shreve graduates with her name in the WVU record books, ranking sixth all-time with 277 block assists and seventh all-time with 1.01 blocks per set. The trio was honored during the Mountaineers’ tilt with No. 4 Kansas on Nov. 16 at the WVU Coliseum.
Trip of a Lifetime
West Virginia capped the year with the trip of a lifetime - a 12-day trip to Europe in May. The Mountaineers journeyed through Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, exploring new cultures and, of course, playing some volleyball. The team biked through Milan, took a train up the mountain in Lake Como, rode an alpine slide down a mountain in Maribor (Slovenia) and went cliff jumping in Pula (Croatia). Levak, a native of Pazin, Croatia, took the team zip lining before showing everyone around her hometown and had the opportunity to play against her former club team and her younger sister. The Mountaineers went 5-1 on the trip, picking up wins against Italian club Busto Arsizio, the Austrian National Team, Slovenian Junior National Team, ZOK Porec and ZOK Pazin.