Last season, a successful run through the CAA regular season allowed the College to host the CAA conference tournament on their home floor for the second consecutive year. Unfortunately, the Cougars dropped the CAA title game in 5 sets to Hofstra. The loss barred the team from advancing to their third straight NCAA tournament, and marked the end of some a number of distinguished careers.
The Cougars started the 2015 campaign against tough opponents in the HotelRED Invitational, in Madison, WI. They grabbed a hard fought 5-set victory Friday over Colgate before dropping their final two opening weekend matches against teams ranked by the preseason AVCA coaches poll, #5 ranked Wisconsin and #35 ranked Western Kentucky.
The Cougars got off to a great start to their season by beating Colgate. Even though Charleston got off to a quick start winning the first two sets of the match (25-20 and 25-10) Colgate was able to readjust and come back winning the next two sets of the match (25-22 and 25-22). The Cougars had to regain their composure and rely on senior Melissa Morello, freshmen Devon Rachel, and sophomore Britney Vallez to win the fifth set (15-11) and win the match.
With these matches on the road it will be difficult to win but still something that is not completely out of the question. They are a talented bunch with a lot of room to grow after losing some key contributors to last years team. Coach Kepner feels confident that the team will be able to replace their seven seniors from a year ago with good young talent. He said, “I think we are at high level right now and that we should only get better”.
Sloane White, one of the many seniors that left this year was part of a great run that the seniors had. In each year, the team advanced deep in conference tournaments in the Southern Conference and the Colonial Athletic Conference. This senior class was a very successful class that will definitely be missed.
Even with the losses of these seniors Coach Kepner remains positive as ever.
Usually when a team loses their best players, the following year can be more of a struggle. That is not the case with the Cougars. Although they are young, with a lot to prove, Coach Kepner knows how to get the best out of his team. With a career record of 200-68 in 8 seasons as the Cougars’ head coach, Kepner brings grit and experience to his young team that will benefit them.
Another key piece to the Cougars success is star player Melissa Morello. She is one of the few seniors left on the team and will play an important role in developing the young talent.
Given the mixture of Coach Kepner’s experience and Melissa Morello’s abilities as a player and a leader this young team is bound for greatness.
Charleston have a lot expectations to meet this year since they have been chosen as CAA champions for the third consecutive year.
“I am happy where we are right now and we should only get better for as young as we are.” Coach Kepner said. “Though consistency is not always there the high ceiling that the team is capable of is definitely promising”.
The Cougars first home game at the TD Arena is Sept. 8 against Charleston Southern.