POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – The 2013 season for the Marist volleyball team will begin this weekend when the Red Foxes travel to the Buckeye State for the Toledo Invitational. Marist is looking to build off a strong ending to the 2012 campaign where the team won five of its final six matches. Overall, Marist finished the season with a 12-16 record and an 8-10 mark in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

The 2013 squad, which on Tuesday was picked to finish sixth in the MAAC, features a solid mix of 10 returning letter-winners, all of whom have seen significant playing time in their careers, and six freshmen who will all look to make an immediate impact.


The middle blocker position will be one of the Red Foxes’ strengths this season as they return two juniors in Mackenzie Stephens (Holland, Mich.) and Marisa Gilbert (Pflugerville, Texas). Stephens, one of three team captains this season, was selected to the Preseason All-MAAC Team after a 2012 campaign when she led both Marist and the MAAC in blocking with 117 total blocks and was tops on the Red Foxes in kills with 268. Gilbert also was near the top in both categories with 161 kills and 66 blocks. Freshman Liz Gassman (Glenside, Pa.) provides additional height and depth at the position and is coming on strong in her first preseason camp.


Marist has the most depth at the outside and right-side hitter positions. The Red Foxes will welcome the return of senior Grace Hill (Kalamazoo, Mich.), a 2013 captain, who had her junior season cut short after seven matches due to a knee injury. At the time of her injury, Hill was leading Marist 74 kills and 3.36 kills per set and was second in digs with 54. Junior Becca Jones (Arlington, Va.) saw significant playing time after Hill’s injury, averaging 1.42 kills per set and 2.07 digs per set in 22 matches. Sophomore Courtney Shaw (Centennial, Co.) appeared in all 28 matches as a freshman, finishing fifth on the team with 150 kills and fourth with 52 blocks. Her classmate, Kelsey Lahey (Bowling Green, Ohio), appeared in 16 matches in 2012 before suffering a season-ending foot injury. In her limited playing time, Lahey recorded 64 kills and 20 digs. Redshirt junior Gabriella Lutjen (Smithtown, N.Y.), who has been battling injuries for each of the past two seasons, will also be fighting for playing time. In 2010 as a freshman, Letjen served as the Red Foxes’ setter, playing out of position due to several injuries, and totaled 252 assists, 65 digs, 26 blocks, and 23 kills.

Freshmen Devon Dawson (Frisco, Texas), Lexi Millington (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Amanda Bradley (East Haven, Conn.) will also compete for playing time while adding depth for the Red Foxes.


Audra Brady (Allentown, Pa.), the third team captain, appeared in all 28 matches for the Red Foxes last season. She led Marist, and finished 10th in MAAC with 6.96 assists per set. She currently ranks sixth in Marist history with 1,809 career assists. Last season, Brady was also second on the team with 27 service aces, third in digs with 204 and sixth with 23 total blocks. Freshman Amanda Schlegel (Austin, Texas) will look to challenge Brady for playing time after a strong preseason camp. Schlegel became just the second Red Fox, joining Brady, to earn All-Tournament honors at the USAV Junior National Championships.


Another one of the team’s strengths this season, the Red Foxes return its two primary defenders from 2012 in juniors Brooke Zywick (Garden City, Mich.) and Gena Russo (Rensselaer, N.Y.) who finished 1-2 in digs last season with 444 and 236, respectively. On four separate occasions last year, Zywick recorded at least 28 digs in a single match, each of which ranked her in Marist’s all-time top 10. Her 38 digs at Saint Peter’s on Sept. 23 is the second-highest total for a single match in program history. She currently has 800 digs for her career which ranks her 10th all-time. Freshmen Rebecca Middleton (Canton, Mich.) will also look to add depth for the Red Foxes’ defensively and in the serve/receive game.

Marist will play its first match of the season against the host Rockets at noon on Friday before taking on Eastern Illinois at 5 p.m. They will close out the weekend with a match against Loyola University Chicago. Marist will play its first home matches of the season in the Volley in the Valley Tournament the weekend of Sept. 6-7 when Dartmouth, Hartford and UMass-Lowell all visit McCann Arena. Admission is free to the public.

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