STEUBENVILLE - In the first year of full NCAA membership and postseason eligibility, the Franciscan University of Steubenville women's volleyball team made history last season becoming the first team sport in FUS history to compete in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference postseason tournament.
After a first-round exit to Penn State-Behrend, the Lady Barons have their eyes set on a conference championship this season.
"We want to win the AMCC championship," head coach Kelly Herrmann said. "I feel like we're still a bit disrespected in our conference and I think that we have a good amount of talent this year. Staying injury free will be key, but I think that we will contend for the championship."
The Lady Barons posted a 12-13 record last season and finished the year at 5-4 in the conference, good for fifth.
Senior captain Anna Cain is entering her fourth year under Herrmann and looks to be the leader both on and off the court. She was named to the AMCC All-Conference First Team last season leading the team in kill percentage (.307), total blocks (57), and kills (293).
FUS adds eight freshman this season, including Sam Kelly, a freshman libero, who Herrmann considers a "very strong player." She also mentioned middle hitter Dani Link and outside hitter and defensive specialist Christina Marie Lawrence as newcomers who will contribute.
Herrmann has four returners who she says are all capable of being named the second team captain.
"They are all very strong leaders - good players and good women. The challenge will be bringing those eight freshman along and getting them caught up," Herrmann said.
The Lady Barons will be without AMCC Third-Team All-Conference libero Nicole Henson and outside hitter Alyssa Wappes, who both graduated in the spring.
"Overall our defense will be a lot better," Herrmann said. "It takes playing some matches together to get used to things. I think it's a matter of getting everybody playing well together."
The Lady Barons open the season at the Bearcat Challenge at St. Vincent College at 3 p.m. today against Muskingum.