EUREKA – One year removed from its best St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference finish in nearly a decade, the Eureka College volleyball team began preseason workouts Saturday in preparation for year three of the Becca LaKosh coaching era. The Red Devils return five players that appeared in 22 or matches or more a year ago.
The Red Devils hit the court early Saturday morning for their first workout and will continue preseason practice in advance of their Aug. 31 opener versus Alma in Beloit Wis. The match against Scots is the first of four for EC at the Buc Blast Tournament hosted by Beloit.
Eureka returns two of its top three hitters from 2017 – seniors Heather Robinson (Peoria, Ill./Limestone H.S.) and Lexi Dooley (Sutter, Ill./Warsaw H.S.). Robinson is the active Eureka leader with 1,055 assists, 559 kills, 85 total blocks and 63 block assists. With 18 more assists and 144 more kills, she can become the first player in program history to reach EC's all-time top 10 lists in both categories. Dooley, a two-sport student-athlete that tied EC's single-game basketball rebounding record last winter, has 77 career volleyball appearances and is responsible for 609 points scored since her arrival 'Neath the Elms in 2015.
Senior McKenna Cleer (Havana, Ill./Havana H.S.) is also back for the Red Devils after seizing the libero role in the second half of the 2017 season. She finished her junior campaign with 232 digs and recorded 10 digs or more in 13 of the season's final 15 matches, including a career-high 22 digs on two separate occasions.
A pair of sophomores return after playing critical roles as newcomers a year ago. Caitlin Miller (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S.) was a force at the net, leading the SLIAC and ranking 74th nationally with 0.91 blocks per set. Her 84 total blocks were the most in a season by a Red Devil since 2002 and her nine block assists against Westminster on Sept. 30 were the most on record at EC.
Sara Worrell (Jacksonville, Ill./Routt Catholic H.S.) had a team-best 4.57 assists per set last season, an average that ranked eighth among SLIAC setters. She emerged in Eureka's historic five-set win over Spalding on Sept. 16, 2017 and was a mainstay in the rotation from that point forward, logging 10 assists or more in each of the season's final 19 matches.
In all, 10 letterwinners return to join six newcomers on the roster in 2018.
Following the four-match swing to begin the season in Wisconsin, Eureka will open the home portion of its schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 4 versus Monmouth at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena. The league opener is set for the following night against reigning SLIAC champion Westminster on Sept. 5.