LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall's volleyball team begins the 2016 season by taking on three local rivals in the Crosstown Crossover. The season begins with a 7:00 p.m. visit to Lancaster Bible College on Friday, before the Diplomats play their first home matches of the year on Saturday by hosting Elizabethtown at 11:00 a.m. and Penn St.-Berks at 1:00 p.m.
F&M enters the 2016 campaign looking to further solidify its place as a perennial power in the Centennial Conference (CC). 2015 saw the Diplomats' season end in the first round of the CC Playoffs, but a roster loaded with experience is set to propel F&M to a ninth-straight appearance in the CC Tournament and seventh CC Championship.
To watch the season preview video, click here.
Despite losing Alyssa Sanchez, Kelsey Michenko, and Katie Foreman to graduation, expectations remain high. The Diplomats boast several talented returners, including seven seniors, as well as a group of freshmen that are expected to contribute immediately.
Click here to view the video roster.
Players to Watch
OH - Ellie Ezekiel - Sr.
S - Allison Edelstein - Sr.
RS - Rachel Umberger - Sr.
OH/RS – Emily Gerard – Sr.
MH - Cassie Garison - Jr.
Ezekiel returns for her final season in Lancaster after earning First Team All-CC honors a year ago, the third consecutive season that she gained All-CC status. The Chadds Ford, Pa. native will look to again lead the Diplomats to the CC Playoffs after pacing the team in kills (355) and kills per set (3.41) in 2015.
Edelstein also returns as the starting setter after leading F&M to a team average 11.55 assists per set last season, ranking second in the conference. She will have plenty of weapons to set up, including senior right side Umberger, who ranked second on the team in hitting percentage (2.28) and third in kills (196) and kills per set (2.31) a year ago. Gerard, another senior, is set to bounce back from extended injury problems, hoping to recreate the effectiveness she showed as a freshman.
A strong class of juniors fills out the experience-heavy Diplomat roster. Garison returns after ranking second on the team in all blocking categories as a sophomore, while Shae Murphy and Dani Skelly bring energy and defense to the squad.
In a preseason poll of coaches, Swarthmore was selected as the favorite to win the conference, garnering seven first-place votes and 93 total points. Johns Hopkins received one first-place vote and collected 85 total points, while the Diplomats earned three first-place votes and 79 total points to come in third. 2015 Champion McDaniel took fourth with 76 points, while Muhlenberg finished fifth with 74 points.
Click here to see complete poll results.
The Road Ahead
Following the Crosstown Crossover, non-conference action continues when F&M hosts Scranton at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 7. The Diplomats then host the F&M Scramble from Sept. 16-17, featuring matches with top competition in Eastern, Salisbury, Ithaca, and Carnegie Mellon.
CC action opens up on Sept. 21 when the Diplomats pay a visit to preseason favorite Swarthmore. The conference schedule wraps up in late October as F&M hosts Gettysburg on Oct. 26 before Dickinson comes to town on Oct. 29 for the final day of CC play.
Conference playoffs are set for Nov. 2, 5, and 6. The following weekend will see the first three rounds of NCAAs contested from Nov. 11-13.
A new feature to this year's schedule is the "Add to Calendar" button, which allows fans to sync new events and updates directly in their Google, Exchange, Yahoo, Outlook, ICal and additional calendars.
Look for the icon below, which can be accessed at the top-right of the 2016 volleyball schedule when viewed on your computer, or bottom-left of all schedules on your mobile device.
Ezekiel comes into her senior season ranking ninth in program history with 954 kills. She needs just 46 more to reach 1,000 and is within striking distance of seventh place all-time, held by Tricia Vos '94 (991). Ezekiel is also ranked ninth in career points with 1,092.
Head coach Mary Kate Boland enters her 14th year in charge of the Diplomats with 248 career victories. She needs just two more to reach the 250-win plateau and four more to break the F&M record for wins by a coach, held by Steve Coulson (251).
Follow Along (Social Media)
All of your favorite Diplomat athletic teams are available on social media. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook and subscribe to the Diplomats YouTube page for frequent highlight videos of games throughout the season.
Opening WeekMatch 1 Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 F&M at Lancaster Bible | Lancaster, Pa. | 7:00 PM Series Record: F&M leads 9-0 Streak: F&M +9 Last F&M Victory: 3-0, Sept. 5, 2015 Last LBC Victory: N/A Video
Match 2 Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 F&M vs. Elizabethtown | Lancaster, Pa. | 11:00 AM Series Record: F&M leads 28-15 Streak: F&M +5 Last F&M Victory: 3-0, Sept. 5, 2015 Last EC Victory: 3-2, Sept. 2, 2009 Video | Live Stats
Match 3 Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 F&M vs. Penn St.-Berks | Lancaster, Pa. | 1:00 PM Series Record: F&M leads 4-0 Streak: F&M +4 Last F&M Victory: 3-0, Sept. 4, 2015 Last PSB Victory: N/A Video | Live Stats