Volleyball ready to return to the court

Junior Camila Vazquez was selected to the All-MAAC preseason team. (Canisius Athletics/GoGriffs)

After the originally scheduled 2020 fall volleyball season and championship were postponed due to the pandemic, MAAC volleyball teams are gearing up for the newly scheduled season set to begin March 7. This season, which is the 40th straight academic year of MAAC operation, will see the championship tournament hosted in Albany from April 1-3. 

The Golden Griffins volleyball team was the No. 2 team in the MAAC at the end of the 2019 season, and opens up this season at No. 5 on the preseason rankings. Fairfield opens as the preseason favorites after being the most recent championship winners, and Quinnipiac sits as the preseason No. 2 team. The Bobcats were the ones to eliminate the Griffs in the 2019 semifinals. Rider and Marist are No. 3 and No. 4, the only other two teams sitting above Canisius in the 11-team preseason rankings.

With the new season comes no new expectations, despite some significant change within the program. In addition to the long break from conference competition, the team has a new head coach, Shannon Thompson, who was announced on July 23 as the program’s 13th head coach. Thompson comes from Campbell University in North Carolina, but despite the change in scenery the program hasn’t skipped a step in their pursuit of a MAAC Championship.

“We have gone the last two years expecting to win the MAAC, and Shannon came in from day one expecting to do that as well,” Hannah Nelson told GoGriffs.com. The junior outside hitter confirmed that the team has “meshed really well” and that the transition has been really easy.

Among the 13 players on the Canisius roster, two players are looking to build on recent MAAC honors. The conference announced in early February that junior middle hitter Camila Vazquez was named to the Preseason All-MAAC Team. Vazquez led the entire conference with a 38.5% hitting percentage last season. Her play will be crucial for the Griffs to return to or advance past the semifinal round of the championship tournament for the third year in a row.

Sophomore libero Bree Long is another one of the team’s promising young stars and is coming off of a freshman season where she was named to both the All-Rookie team and the All Championship Team. Twice named MAAC Libero of the Week during the 2019 season, and during that time also set the team’s freshman record for digs in a season.

The young Canisius squad will begin their season at home on March 7, with a doubleheader against Siena, then head the following weekend to Quinnipiac with hopes to avenge their 2019 MAAC semifinal loss.

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