Rhody Volleyball Opens Season at Notre Dame's Golden Dome Invitational

Rhody Volleyball Opens Season at Notre Dame's Golden Dome Invitational

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

  • Friday - 4:00 p.m. - vs. New Mexico State
  • Friday - 12:30 p.m. - at Notre Dame
  • Saturday - 4:30 p.m. - vs. Valparaiso

THE BASICS

  • Rhode Island opens the 2017 season with three matches at Notre Dame's Golden Dome Invitational.
  • The Rams will open against New Mexico State on Friday night before closing out competition with a pair of Saturday matches against Notre Dame and Valparaiso.
  • All matches will be played at Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
  • Friday's season opener will be Steve Santonastaso's debut as head coach for the Rams. A 1993 Rhode Island grad, Santonastaso spent the previous 12 years as an assistant under former head coach Bob Schneck, who retired at the end of the 2016 season, after 36 years with the program.
  • The Rams are coming off a 2016 campaign in which they finished second in league play with a 12-2 conference record.
  • Rhode Island was picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 in this season's preseason poll. It is the third-straight year the Rams were picked to finish fourth, and the fourth time since 2003.
  • URI welcomes back 10 players from last year's team, including seniors Marie Gillcrist and Kylee Wolfe, along with junior Olivia Budinich, all of whom appeared in each of Rhode Island's 98 sets last season.
  • Gillcrist is the top returning blocker, having recorded nine solos and 74 total blocks a year ago. Wolfe - who registered double-digit kills seven times as a junior - averaged 2.07 kills per set while Budinich had a team-best 275 digs in 2016.
  • Seniors Jessie Blaze and Sam Roberts also saw significant time last season, appearing in 95 and 93 sets, respectively. Blaze led the team in service aces (31) and averaged 2.37 digs per set. Roberts, meanwhile, averaged 1.95 kills per set
  • For the first time in four years, the Rams will be without the services of outside hitter Audrey Castro, setter Callan Kinnan and middle blocker Layne Self. The all-conference performers graduated this past spring as URI's winningest class (71 victories) in nearly two decades.
  • Junior Lauren Pick will look to step in at the setter position and fill the hole left by four-year starter Callan Kinnan. In two season's playing behind Kinnan, Pick appeared in 10 matches, registering seven assists, 54 digs and a pair of service aces.
  • Also challenging for playing time this season will be senior Rachel Lynne Cox, junior Mckenzie Kiesle and sophomores Hazel Brown and Jenna McGuire, as well as freshmen Claire Chaplinsky, Sage Connors, Annie Ell, Live Lunde Fossdal and Kelsey Montgomery.

Rhode Island vs. New Mexico State

  • Rhody and New Mexico State will be facing one another for just the second time.
  • The only other meeting between the teams was in 2014, at New Hampshire's Holly Young Invitational. The Aggies won that match 3-0.
  • NMSU went 24-7 overall last year and 13-1 in the Western Athletic Conference.
  • The Aggies - who won the WAC regular-season titles in both 2015 and 2016 - were tabbed league favorites again in 2017.

Rhode Island vs. Notre Dame

  • Rhode Island is 1-4 all-time against the Irish.
  • The teams last met a year ago at URI's Art Carmichael Invitational. Notre Dame won that match by a score of 3-1.
  • URI's lone victory over UND came in the form of a 3-2 win during the 1990 season.
  • Notre Dame went 22-10 last season, with a 13-7 mark in ACC play.
  • This year, the Irish were picked to finish fourth in the conference.

Rhode Island vs. Valparaiso

  • Rhody and Valpo will close out the Golden Dome Invitational with the second-ever meeting between the two programs.
  • The only other meeting between the teams was in 2013, when URI traveled to Valparaiso for the Popcorn Invitational. The Crusaders won that match 3-0.
  • Valpo finished the 2016 season 15-19 overall and 6-10 in the Horizon League.
  • The Crusaders were picked to finish seventh in the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll.